Two For Tuesday: Little Richard

The flamboyant “Little” Richard Penniman is one of the more influential performers from the Baby Boom Years. He influenced rock & roll, rhythm & blues, soul, funk, disco, and other forms of music as well as many performers, not the least of which was Paul McCartney, who covered his “Long Tall Sally” (complete with the “whoo-oo-oo!”) with The Beatles. He’s a charter member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and has won lifetime achievement awards from The Recording Academy and The Rhythm & Blues Foundation. His life is one of contradictions, but it’s his music that’s our focus today.

“Tutti Frutti” was a song he wrote while on the club circuit, and after some less risqué lyrics were written by Dorothy LaBostrie, he recorded it as his first single in November 1955. It reached #17 on the Billboard chart and #2 on the R&B chart, as well as #29 in the UK, in 1956. His second single, “Long Tall Sally,” recorded in March 1956, reached #6 on the Billboard chart, #1 on the R&B chart and #3 in the UK. Here are both of them, in reverse order, from the 1956 film Don’t Knock The Rock.

He released “Good Golly, Miss Molly” in January 1958, and it reached #8 on the Hot 100 and #4 on the R&B chart, as well as #8 in the UK. My cat Molly likes this one, so I promised I’d do it for her. This was recorded at Muhammad Ali’s 50th birthday celebration.

Little Richard’s appeal was universal: he often played for integrated audiences, and he was one of the first performers, along with Chuck Berry and Sam Cooke, to “break the color line” on the music charts.

Little Richard, your Two for Tuesday, February 20, 2018.

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