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  • By Alan Richard

Little Richard: MUSICAL GIANT

How to pay tribute to one of the godfathers of rock 'n roll, who took gospel, blues and soul along with him for the kind of wild ride few would've ever dared?

We curated a list of interesting quotes, photos and videos from artists saying goodbye to “the architect” of rock, Little Richard, born Richard Wayne Penniman in Macon, Georgia. He died the morning of May 9, 2020, at the age of 87. (See the list later in this article.)

The Country Music Hall of Fame posted a remembrance, saying Little Richard had lived for many years in a suite at the Hilton Nashville Downtown, a hotel just across the street and a small park from the museum. (He also had a home in Lynchburg, Tenn., according to The Tennessean newspaper.)

The Hall reports that Little Richard made his first mark professionally playing Nashville’s R&B clubs like the New Era Club and Club Revillot, and was often on WLAC radio, an influential R&B station--all of which is now a much less heralded part of Music City’s history.

During the museum’s exhibit Night Train to Nashville: Music City Rhythm and Blues, 1945-1970, Little Richard came over for an event and spoke with the museum staff.

“Little Richard was one of the leading lights. His greatness goes beyond any estimation of what he achieved,” said the Hall of Fame's tribute.

In an interview much earlier in his career, Little Richard told a British TV host how he’d begun as a dishwasher in his hometown. Then he wrote a couple of songs and "got out of the kitchen.” (See the video at end of this article.)

He was one of the greatest, no doubt about it. So, here are a few tributes for you to enjoy:

George Harrison, at The Beatles’ induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame:

“Little Richard—it was all his fault, really.”

The Otis Redding Foundation, recalling that Little Richard inducted Redding into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame posthumously:“It’s no understatement to say that Otis Redding would have not become the King of Soul without inspiration from Little Richard. Redding often said that he ‘would not be here’ without Little Richard.”

Fantastic Negrito: “His sound was so hard. You can hear it in Creedence Clearwater Revival. His androgynous style was imitated by David Bowie, Prince, Michael Jackson and Mick Jagger. He was the first hard rocker—popular music was 'swing-and-sway with Sallie Mae’ until he arrived and rocked. He was the first glam rocker—no one had the courage to dress the way he did and wear make up in the conservative 1950s. His high-pitch shrill was imitated by the early Beatles, just go back and listen. He was the original punk rocker. He was fearless, a musical and fashion rebel… I love you and I thank you for contribution to the arts. RIP, Little Richard.”

Questlove of The Roots: “The King of Rock and Roll. Zero questions. Journalists do your job. Not architect, not pioneer, not hitmaker. This man was literally the blueprint of all the world took from. Little Richard is the true king. LONG LIVE THE KING.”

Mick Jagger: “He was the biggest inspiration of my early teens, and his music still has the same raw electric energy when you play it now as it did when it first shot through the music scene in the 50s. When we were on tour with him, I would watch his moves every night and learn from him how to entertain and involve the audience.”

Mystical, rustic neo-folk-soul Memphis singer-songwriter Valerie June: “He was fireworks in human form.”

Tanya Tucker, country music legend, who sang a duet with Little Richard on the Rhythm and Country Blues album in 1997: “I loved him so much. We were like best friends from the instant we met and to his day. It’s a very sad day for me, I’m just trying to stop the tears. I loved him so much and I wish I could have brought him more flowers. Love, T.”

Bernie Taupin: “The beauty is on duty in the great beyond.”

Elton John: “Without a doubt—musically, vocally and visually—he was my biggest influence. Seeing him live in my teens was the most exciting event in my life at that point. Goosebumps, electricity and joy came from every pore. His records still sound fresh, and the opening few seconds of 'Tutti Frutti' are the most explosive in music history. I was lucky enough to work with him for my Duets album in 1993. He was shy and funny, and I was SO nervous. The track we recorded, “The Power,” is a favorite in my catalogue.”

Bootsy Collins: “A friend, the rock and the Institution. … Share the love with his family and friends all around the world. We will never forget you and your music. Bootsy baby!!!”

Benmont Tench of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers: "This brilliant, shining black gay man, this brave, brave man. Imagine it is the white-bread (literally) Eisenhower 1950s, you are suddenly, deservedly big on the radar of white teenagers, as lightning, and white adults, as a threat, and you step up, unafraid, never toning anything down, bolder and bigger (and more joyful!) than anything that had been seen or heard before, and proclaim ‘a-wop-bop-a-loo-bop-, a-lop-bam-boom,’ HERE I AM! And the world shifts on its axis, and glory springs forth. Thank you, thank you, thank you, the heavens shine their brightest for you, and because of you.”

Tom Jones:To my dear Richard, You’re a true original, you broke all the rules and you weren’t afraid to show it. A magnificent talent and an inspiration to so many of us. My heart goes out to your loved ones, RIP my friend."

John Oates: “His voice felt like it was tearing the little speaker of my record player to shreds… His pounding on the piano was like a big V8 engine straining at the rev limiter… and the groove, that shuffle, had a swing that made you want to get up off the floor… There was no one like him before or after… Tonight heaven is really rockin’. God bless the immortal Little Richard and his family.”

“Little” Stevie Van Zandt: “The man who invented it. Elvis popularized it. Chuck Berry was the storyteller. Richard embodied the spirit of rock ‘n roll. Maureen and I were so honored being the first marriage he conducted. Were lucky to know him. He lives forever in the Underground Garage.”

Algiers the Band: “Eternal sadness for the loss of one of Georgia’s own.”

Brian May of Queen: “So sad to hear of the passing of this wonderful, wonderful innovator—who cried and screamed through his music, and the whole world began to rock. Immeasurable loss to our world.”

Glen Campbell’s family, posting a quote from Little Richard: “When Glen Campbell says one word, ‘Galveston,’ it shakes me up. It takes me, man, that’s the whole soul of it right there, when he says that one word.”

Chris Scruggs, Nashville musician, currently with Marty Stuart and His Superlatives, grandson of Earl Scruggs: “I got to see him in concert one time… It was at Wembley Arena in London, along with Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry… The highlight of the evening was the middle set, when Little Richard took the stage. His band played a warm-up tune (the band resembled the inhabitants of Noah’s Ark, numbered two of each kind. Two drummers, two guitar players, two horn sections, two backup key board players), then Richard walked out in a purple jumpsuit with ruby slippers, climbed up and stood on the grand piano and proceeded to conduct a five-minute call-and-response session with the audience yelling ‘WOOOOOO!’ back and forth to each other. He… left the audience shredded to ribbons. It was a joyful experience, just as much a Pentecostal tent revival as a rock and roll stadium show… In his later years, he lived at a penthouse suites in the downtown Hilton hotel… I heard stories of people accidentally meeting him in the downstairs coffee shop in the morning hours, where he would go to buy a banana and a newspaper. … Every story is similar. They want to talk to him about rock and roll but all he would talk about was getting saved and Jesus. Whatever you believe, there is no doubt the Earth lost an angel today. RIP it up, #littlerichard, we’ll miss you.”

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