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R.I.P.: Little Richard Still Fighting For The Respect He Deserves, Even After His Death

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Icon Little Richard passed away on Saturday, and his position in music history is the unequivocal architect of Rock & Roll.  Yet it seems some folks need to be reminded, and checked on how their bias feels like erasure. Let's celebrate a legend inside.

 

Richard "Little Richard" Penniman owned who he was from the time he was kicked out of his father's house as a teen for doing so.  He was one of the first artists was was unapologetically him, and we all should thank him for it. 

His foundation in the church mixed with his flamboyance and soul gave us Rock & Roll, before it was replicated by Elvis, The Beatles and the like.  And his image, his voice, and his ahead-of-his-time persona gave the icons who came after him (like James Brown and Prince) a paved road to navigate their own way just a little bit easier.

His sexuality was often a point of contention in his career, when it came to how he chose to navigate who he truly was during a time when society made it almost impossible to do so.  As a teenager, according to his own account in Charles White's 1984 book, “The Life and Times of Little Richard,” he became sexually active with both men and women, though over the years he variously modified his story and renounced and/or denied his homosexuality.

The "Good Golly Miss Molly" and "Tutti Frutti" singer passed away at 87 (his age has been disputed by some) over the weekend. His death was confirmed by his son, Danny Jones Penniman, who told the New York Times the cause was cancer.

In the last decade or so, a Little Richard sighting was super rare.  In some of his last public appearances, he stepped in at the last minute to fill in for Chuck Berry at the 2007 halftime performance at the ASU football game against USC on Thanksgiving Day.  He also did a couple of interviews in 2017 with the  Three Angels Baptist Network - returning to his church roots - and WSIL News 3's Collin Dorsey.

The icon indeed made it known through the years, much like Ray Charles did, that white artists would take their music and also take credit for its creation.  But no one could replicate his perfectly coifed curl, his perfect screams, the mascara filled eyes and makeup powdered face, and his then-outlandish performance style.

The king and architect of rock & roll had taken his throne, and was even inducted into the first Rock & Roll Hall of Fame class in 1986.  The 1993 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award honoree who grew up in a very religious home, often went back and forth between the secular world and theological school and the church after reaching the heights of fame in the 60's.

 

It's always important to know and remember our favorite icons' favorite icons, and Little Richard was indeed one of the originals. Someone needs to tell ABC News that, as they got dragged for filth for adding "self proclaimed" in front of his architect of Rock & Roll title.  Twitter gave them a little lesson on why they were all the way wrong for that.

 

 

Whew. The plain truth jumped out. And honestly, it's exhausting. Even in the death of our black icons, mainstream America still doesn't even attempt to give us respect they not only earned, but deserve.

R.I.P. Little Richard.

 

Photo: Shutterstock

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