Little Richard, The Architect of Rock ‘N’ Roll, Passes At 87

Little Richard, the true King of Rock ‘N’ Roll, grew up in Macon, Georgia, the product of a religious upbringing that connected him to the church where he was touched by the musical hand of God.   

He was an energetic and wildly flamboyant music legend, who rose to fame in the 1950s with hits like “Tutti Frutti,” “Long Tall Sally” to “Good Golly Miss Molly” and a unique style that earned him the distinguished title of “architect” of rock ‘n’ roll. 

Selling 30 million records worldwide and joining the first crop of genius artists to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1986 throughout his career speaks for itself as well.

Richard passed at the age of 87, the musician’s son Danny Penniman confirmed to Rolling Stone on Saturday. His cause of death is unknown and comes on the heels of the death of music mogul Andre Harrell who passed at 59. 

Lil Richard was asked by Rolling Stone in 1990 whether or not he believed he invented Rock ‘N’ Roll. Richard replied: 

Well, let’s say it this way. When I first came along, I never heard of any rock & roll,” he said. “ I only heard Elmore James, Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson, Ruth Brown and Roy Brown, Blues.” 

“I really feel from the bottom of my heart that I am the inventor. If there was somebody else, I didn’t know (them), didn’t hear them, haven’t heard them. Not even to this day. So say I’m the architect.” 

There was a self-entitled movie — an underground Black classic — made about Richard’s life in 2000. Richard’s character was masterfully played by the actor Leon.  

Artists, celebrities, and appreciators of iconic American figures flocked to social media to show their respect.

Fellow rock pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis said in a statement, “It is with a heavy heart that I ask for prayers for the family of my lifelong friend and fellow Rocker ‘Little Richard.’ He will live on always in my heart with his amazing talent and his friendship! He was one of a kind and I will miss him dearly. God Bless his family and fans. Rest In Peace, my friend.”

Losing a talent and innovator of this magnitude can never be replaced and Lirrlt Richard leaves a void that is almost impossible to fill. Architects of sounds, pioneers, and unabashed musical geniuses don’t come around often. 

Richard learned from artists before him, who were robbed of their music, royalties and style. He broke barriers and opened up financial opportunities for Black music artists to follow. 

The legacy Little Richard leaves is already embedded in our culture from the fashion to the swag to the talent. Music as we know it is an extension of the creative juices that oozed from the architect of music’s most influential and widespread sound.  

Rest In Power to a titan of the game.

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.