Little Richard, Architect of Rock ‘N’ Roll, Dies at 87

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Little Richard, the energetic, flamboyant and undisputed architect of Rock N’ Roll music, has died. He was 87. His death was confirmed by his son, Danny Jones Penniman. He did not mention the cause of death.

Starting with “Tutti Frutti” in 1956, Little Richard had a series of hits with a style of music people hadn’t heard before. “Tutti Frutti” was followed up by other hits, “Long Tall Sally” and “Rip It Up” that same year, “Lucille” in 1957, and “Good Golly Miss Molly” in 1958. His energic piano banging, coupled with gospel-influenced vocal exclamations and sexually charged lyrics helped Richard climb to the top and influenced everyone from Prince to Elton John. “I heard Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis, and that was it,” Elton John told Rolling Stone in 1973. “I didn’t ever want to be anything else. I’m more of a Little Richard stylist than a Jerry Lee Lewis, I think.

The Beatles adopted his trademark sound, including the crowd-raising, “Woooo!” Paul McCartney said that the first song he ever sang in public was “Long Tall Sally,” which he later recorded with the Beatles. And Bob Dylan wrote in his high school yearbook that his ambition was “to join Little Richard.”