Little Richard was born on December 5, 1932. He was an American musician, pianist, and songwriter famously known for his hit tracks ‘Tutti Frutti’ and ‘Long Tall Sally.’ The award-winning singer was notable for his alluring music that broke the chains of racism and united people irrespective of the color of their skin. He is considered the “Architect of Rock and Roll” and played a pivotal role in the development of a few other genres of music. Today is his birthday, and we will be celebrating him in style!
Richard Wayne Penniman
December 5, 1932
May 9, 2020 (age 87)
Little Richard was born on December 5, 1932. He was born Richard Wayne Penniman in Macon, Georgia. His father was a church deacon and a mason who owned a nightclub, while his mother was a member of the local New Hope Baptist Church. He was an average student who spent most of his time practicing music.
Richard began his career at 14 when Sister Rosetta Tharpe invited him to open her show. The opportunity inspired him to be a professional performer. In 1949, he joined Doctor Nubilo’s traveling show to improve his career. A few years later, Richard left home in search of greener pastures. He became part of the band that toured the country while the bluesman, Buster Brown, was absent. He was addressed as “Little Richard,” although his family had already begun to call him “Lil Richard” due to his peculiar appearance. His performance won him a contract with R.C.A. Victor. With the label, he released ‘Every Hour.’ In 1955, he released ‘Tutti Frutti,’ the single that sold over a million copies and won several awards in both the U.S. and U.K. He immediately backed it up with another hit track in 1956 titled ‘Long Tall Sally,’ which also sold over a million copies.
If you are an avid listener of mid-20th century rock, gospel, and soul, Richard should sound familiar for his performances and for injecting life into various music genres. Richard met his future wife, Ernestine Harvin, at an evangelical rally in 1957. They married two years later and lived happily for years before divorcing in 1964. Although he has had several controversies surrounding his sexual orientation, he had ensured to prevent that from hindering his musical performance.
He performs alongside Sister Rosetta Tharpe at her show.
His track, ‘Tutti Frutti,’ ranks second on Billboard's Rhythm and Blues Best-Sellers Chart.
He gets inducted into the 'Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.'
His first hit, ‘Tutti Frutti,’ is included in the Library of Congress's National Recording Registry.
The National Museum of African American Music honors Richard with the award for his contribution to forming popular music genres.
Why We Love Little Richard
He overcame addiction
Richard was consistently adopting destructive habits in his prime. He later repented and believed God made him for a better purpose.
He was determined
At one time, Richard retired to his hometown, almost giving up his music career due to a lack of success and finances. However, he stayed determined and went on to record his hits years later.
He was a beloved father
He adopted a one-year-old boy, Danny Jones, from a late church member and maintained a good relationship with him. Jones’ biological mother asked Richard to take in her son after the death of his biological father; there’s no official paperwork for the adoption.
5 Surprising Facts
His name was an error
He was supposed to be named "Ricardo," but a misunderstanding occurred, resulting in the name "Richard" on his birth certificate.
He was a drug addict
He was so addicted to drugs that he spent $1,000 on cocaine each day in the mid-1970s.
He was once stopped on stage for screaming and hollering with such great intensity that he was nicknamed "War Hawk."
He performed at President Bill Clinton's inauguration
He was among the artists who performed at the inauguration of President Clinton.
He was denounced by his father
His father kicked him out of the family house at 15 for allegedly being homosexual.
Little Richard FAQs
Why is Little Richard so important?
He was instrumental in the development of rock and roll as well as other musical genres. He was also regarded for uniting people in the face of racial discrimination.
Did Chuck Berry and Little Richard ever play together?
Although the duo, Berry and Richard, were among the first 10 to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, they were rivals.
What caused Little Richard's death?
Richard died of bone cancer.
Little Richard’s birthday dates