Rock ’n’ roll pioneer Little Richard has died at the age of 87.
The musician born Richard Wayne Penniman died on Saturday (May 9) in Tullahoma, Tennessee after suffering from bone cancer. His son Danny Penniman and lawyer Bill Sobel confirmed his passing to Rolling Stone.
Widely acknowledged as one of the key architects of rock ’n’ roll, Little Richard found his feet as a young musician in the late-’40s before his rising to fame with his first hit “Tutti Frutti” in 1955. The singer later removed himself from the entertainment business in 1957 to study theology before marrying his wife Ernestine Harvin in 1959 and turning towards gospel music instead.
But his absence from rock ’n’ roll was short-lived—Little Richard was quickly drawn back to the genre and recorded his seventh studio album, Little Richard is Back (And There’s a Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On!) in 1962. From then, the singer returned to the music scene and inspired rock heavyweights such as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Elton John and every other rock act that followed in the decades after.
“I’m so saddened to hear about the passing of Little Richard. 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 mid-50s,” the Rolling Stones’ singer Mick Jagger tweeted.
“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 and he was always so generous with advice to me. He contributed so much to popular music. I will miss you Richard, God bless.”
Other musicians who paid tribute to Little Richard include Paul McCartney, the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson and Foo Fighters. Dylan also paid his respects, revealing in a series of tweets that Little Richard was his “shining star and guiding light” when he was growing up.
RIP, Little Richard. Revisit his debut album, Here’s Little Richard, below: