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Q. Hi Lewis. love rock n’ roll but I know little of its history before the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who and Jimi Hendrix. I read in the news that someone named Little Richard died today. I know he was famous, and they keep on saying he’s one of the “fathers” of rock and roll. When I watch broadcast of inductions at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame he is often mentioned or is in a video. Can you tell me why he is so important in the history of American music?
Steve in Michigan (born on 1990)
A. Hi Steve, as a life coach I am always interested in how people who became pioneers in some field transcended obstacles and became successful and influenced the world in positive ways. Richard Penniman aka, “Little Richard” is among the original founders of what is considered one of the most influential musical and cultural forces in history, Rock n’ Roll. Among the greatest early influencers – Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Fats Domino, and Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard is considered among the most unique both in performance ability, and style. One thing for sure, he was authentic, and showed the world how important it is to…
Here’s just a list of the musicians he directly influenced. When you hear the high notes and Paul McCartney’s voice in the Beatles song “She Loves You,” it is Little Richard who taught Paul McCartney to sing that way. When you watch Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stone’s on stage he is taking his moves from Little Richard’s Playbook. In addition Little Richard is considered one of the early musicians to break the color line. Before him and his peers music made by black musicians (called “colored music” back then) was never played on white stations. When you look at videos of Little Richard you notice that often, when possible his bands consisted of both black and white musicians something that was virtually unheard of in 1955 and 56.
In addition to all this he was a gay man and also a Christian Minister so it’s interesting to see how many lines he crossed at a time when America was a deeply repressed culture. He influenced the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, almost everyone inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, and an endless number of other modern influencers in rock music.
To see how powerful a performer he was and how influential he was all you need to do is watch this video of him in1956 when he was just in his early 20s. Notice that Bill Hayley, another Rock pioneer is sitting at table in the audience.
Then watch this performance in 2017, 61 years later
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