Little Richard, who called himself the “architect of rock ‘n’ roll”, died on Saturday at the age of 87. He was known for his flamboyance, passionate piano-playing and gospel vocals, and for breaking barriers in a still-segregated America from as early as the 1940s and ’50s. Many at the time had claimed he was a personification of the “devil’ s music”, says CNN.
Though his family did not announce the cause of death, Richard’s former agent Dick Alen told CNN that it was related to bone cancer.
Some of his most famous songs are Tutti Frutti, Long Tall Sally, Rip It Up, and Good Golly Miss Molly. He was one of the original inductees into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. Many other renowned artists including Prince, Elton John, Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon and Michael Jackson said they were inspired by him. “If it hadn’t have been for him, I probably wouldn’t have gone into music,” David Bowie had told Performing Songwriter magazine in 2003.
“He had done more to break down racial and sexual barriers than almost any artist in the 20th century, and his greatest recordings are imperishable,” musician and writer Bob Stanley notes in The Guardian. “We were lucky to have him, and he knew it. He was the beautiful Little Richard from Macon, Georgia, an ultra-sexual force of anti-nature, the king of rock’n’roll.”
After his death, dozens of artists paid their tributes to Little Richard, whose birth name was Richard Wayne Penniman.