From Macon, Georgia to global icon, Little Richard leaves behind a rich musical legacy.
Advertisement

Today, we are all mourning the loss of Macon, Georgia native, rock & roll pioneer Richard Wayne Penniman, better known as Little Richard. He died Saturday in his Nashville home at the age of 87. From the top of his mile-high pompadour hair, to the shiniest of shiny shoes on his feet, Little Richard was a larger than life, magnetic force that not only changed the musical landscape, he knocked it flat out of its chair and upside down. As Stevie Van Zandt said in a tweet, “{Little Richard} embodied the spirit and soul of RocknRoll. He opened his mouth and out came liberation. His amazing records and attitude combined with his flamboyant androgyny would define the fearlessness of the Artform and influence all that came after.” In his honor, we’ve turned to the magical time machine known as YouTube and are transporting ourselves to 5 of our favorite performances from the man himself.

“Tutti Fruitti,” 1956

Thank goodness for us that we’ve been allowed a peek into this 1956 screen test Little Richard performed for the film The Girl Can’t Help It. It worked out well as Little Richard was cast in the film and many of his songs made the soundtrack. But this vintage look of his first major hit is a real treat because “Tutti Fruitti” gave us one of the most legendary phrases in rock & roll music, “a-wop-bop-a-loo-bop-a-wop-bam-boom!”

“Lucille,” 1957

This performance was very early on in his career, as his signature high hairdo was just beginning to climb, and wearing a suit and tie was a much tamer stage look compared to what was to become his signature stage style. This vivacious live performance is now historical record of the song that was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2002.

“Good Golly, Miss Molly,” 1958

By 1958, Little Richard gives us much more of the bravado we are all accustomed to seeing in one of his performances. The hair reaches new heights, the vest covered in small reflective squares and matching metallic bell-bottom trousers transform Little Richard into a bouncing, bobbing, human disco ball. And watch how quickly and ferociously, but accurately his fingers bang up and down the ivories creating a song that not only reached No. 4 on the Billboard charts in 1957, but also it would be instantly recognizable within a few bars for generations to come.

“Whole Lot a Shakin’ Going On,” 1963

In front of a packed audience, Little Richard gives direction to his audience that they are to get up and do exactly as the song instructs. “I want everybody to just shake. Don’t you just like to shake sometimes?” And then in the call and response form familiar to Southern churchgoers, he says, “Everybody say alright,” and the crowd shouted, “alright!” The singing, dancing, shaking, bouncing, and non-stop action in this performance shows exactly what a force Little Richard was and why, although he is now physically gone, this architect of modern music will live on forever in song and dance.

“Rubber Ducky,” 1995

All of the biggest of big stars have at one time or another visited the most beloved street in the country. No, we aren’t talking about Broadway or Beale. We’re talking about Sesame Street. Sitting in a tub at the piano, clad in a cheetah print jacket with a flurry of bubblies flying all around him, Little Richard serves up a rocking rendition of “Rubber Ducky” like no one else could.

We join the rest of the world in sending our condolences to the Penniman family, the people of Macon, Georgia, and music fans worldwide.