Little Richard struggled for decades with his sexuality, faith

Little Richard kept audiences bopping more than 60 years to his rump shaking rock ‘n’ roll of pounding piano, uptempo rhythms, and howling vocals.

One of the founding fathers of rock ‘n’ roll, Little Richard was a musical force to be reckoned with: A gay black man who helped shatter the racial divide on the music charts and introduce black R&B to mainstream white America during the hyper conservative 1950s.

Little Richard, Once Gay, Is Now Antigay — Again

The singer has gone back and forth on the matter for years and now says being gay or transgender is „unnatural.“

Little Richard, the iconic and influential early rock and roller, has gone back and forth throughout his career on whether he’s gay or antigay — and now he’s back on the antigay side.

Speaking to Three Angels Broadcasting Network, a Christian-oriented company, Little Richard denounced both homosexuality and transgender identity as unnatural and ungodly.

“Anybody come in show business, they’re going to say you’re gay,” he told the network in an interview posted on YouTube last month, excerpted by Ebony in an article published Thursday. “Are you straight? Are you a homosexual something? They’re going to say it. But God, Jesus, he made men, men, he made women, women, you know? And you’ve got to live the way God wants you to live.”

“So much unnatural affection,” he continued. “So much of people just doing everything and don’t think about God.”

Over the course of his career, the singer’s changes of tune on homosexuality have included the following:

“If your brother’s a homosexual, you must protect your little boy from him. Homosexuals are sick. And lesbians are sick too. What real woman would want another woman to touch her? She’d feel like something was crawling on her.” — 1980, to Rolling Stone

“I’ve been gay all my life and I know God is a God of love, not of hate.” — 1995, to Penthouse

“We are all both male and female. Sex to me is like a smorgasbord. Whatever I feel like, I go for. What kind of sexual am I? I am omnisexual!” — 2012, to GQ

Little Richard, born Richard Wayne Penniman 84 years ago, became famous in the 1950s with his energetic renditions of such songs as “Tutti Frutti,” “Long Tall Sally,” and “Good Golly, Miss Molly.” Many other rockers revered him, although the public sometimes preferred white artists’ covers of his hits — Pat Boone, for instance, did a popular cover of “Tutti Frutti.” At the height of his fame Little Richard had a gender-bending appearance, wearing elaborate costumes and makeup.

He quit the business abruptly in 1957 and entered a Bible college, emerged as a gospel singer, but then went back to rock and roll, according to Some biographical accounts say he is an ordained minister, but at one point he called himself “ordained by God.” He came from a Seventh-Day Adventist family but also attended Baptist and Holiness churches, notes a Rolling Stone bio, and once said he was kicked out by his family in his early teens for being gay.

In the new interview, he said Jesus saved him and added, “I don’t want to sing rock and roll no more. … I want to be holy like Jesus.”

Little Richard, Once Gay, Is Now Antigay — Again

Little Richard says he’s no longer gay, has abandoned all ‘unnatural affections’ toward men

Rock-and-roll legend Little Richard has an important announcement to make: He’s done with all that gay ish.

That’s right, folks. The guy who gave us “Tutti Frutti,” a coded 1955 rock anthem about the joys of anal sex, says he’s abandoned all those “unnatural” tendencies of his past and has instead devoted his last years to the teachings of Jesus H. Christ.

During a sit-down with 3ABN, the 84-year-old, who once described himself as both “gay” and “omnisexual”, said he’s through wearing makeup and wigs and singing about behaving badly.

“Anybody come in show business, they’re going to say you’re gay. Are you straight? Are you a homosexual something? They’re going to say it,” Richard said. “But God, Jesus, he made men, men, he made women, women, you know? And you’ve got to live the way God wants you to live.”

He continued, “You know, all these things. So much unnatural affection. So much of people just doing everything and don’t think about God. Don’t want no parts of him.”

This is quite a departure from what Richard told GQ just five years ago, in 2012, when he said: “We are all both male and female. Sex, to me, is like a smorgasbord. Whatever I feel like, I go for. What kind of sexual am I? I am omnisexual!”

Richard now says his belief in Jesus is what saved him and he sincerely believes it can save others, too.

“Regardless of whatever you are, he loves you. I don’t care what you are. He loves you and he can save you,” Richard told interviewers. “All you’ve got to do is say, ‘Lord, take me as I am. I’m a sinner.’ But we all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”

He added: “The only holy, righteous person is Jesus and he wants us to be just like him because, in order to go to Heaven, we’ve got to look like him. I don’t want to sing rock and roll no more.”

Little Richard says he’s no longer gay, has abandoned all ‘unnatural affections’ toward men

Too black, too queer, too holy: why Little Richard never truly got his dues

How did a turbaned drag queen from the sexual underground of America’s deep south ignite rock’n’roll? We unravel the mystery behind Little Richard’s subversive genius

All these artists and more, including Bob Dylan in a Twitter thread, would be quick to acknowledge Little Richard’s formative influence on them. But “influence” is perhaps too weak a word here. Rock’n’roll history has never exactly neglected or ignored Little Richard: it just has never quite known what to do with him. The longstanding pissing contest over who can claim the title “King of Rock’n’Roll” – Elvis? Jerry Lee Lewis? – is a case in point. While his authorised biographer went celestial in choosing to style Richard “the Quasar of Rock”, perhaps we might do better to listen to the artist, introducing himself at the Club Matinee in Houston, Texas, in 1953: “Little Richard, King of the Blues … and the Queen, too!”

Might we hear in this brash boast an invitation to think in non-binary terms about Little Richard’s place in black musical history? At 20 Little Richard was already a showbiz veteran of half a decade, performing first as a turbaned mysterio and then as a drag queen named Princess LaVonne in the travelling shows that plied the southern black entertainment circuit of the late 1940s. Other queens and “freakish men” – as the black speech of the period named gender-non-conforming males – taught Little Richard the musical, performative and sexual ropes: performers like Esquerita, whose flamboyant persona and piano technique inspired Richard (the question of who wore the pompadour first will probably go for ever unanswered).

These transgressively queer performers of a bawdy, sped-up blues, and the black publics they performed it for, were overlooked by a generation of white male critics and collectors eager to fetishise the rural: Robert Johnson standing at a lonesome crossroads in the Mississippi Delta. As historian Marybeth Hamilton notes, rock’n’roll was thought by these critics to be “a factory product that diluted, even perverted, black performance traditions for sale to undiscerning consumers who, if anything, preferred the fake stuff to the real”.

Yet the urban blues – in which black women’s voices and concerns had been central since the 1920s – supplied the soundtrack to a black sexual underground that was remarkably widespread, durable, and even popular in the Jim Crow era. Take the jump blues of Billy Wright, the “slow drag” vocal style of Big Maybelle, or the “hip shakin’ mama” Patsy Vidalia, the drag queen who MCed New Orleans club the Dew Drop Inn and threw the city’s annual Gay Ball. Although the crossover from this rhythm and blues to rock’n’roll might have meant the loss of an audience that knew the song Lucille was about a drag queen, or that Tutti Frutti began as an ode to anal sex, the frank and exuberant world from which they – and Little Richard – sprang, has left plenty of evidence for black feminist, queer, and trans musical histories to uncover (and for motivated digital crate-diggers to seek out).

Any understanding of Little Richard’s career has also been inhibited by the tendency to see individuals – and history itself – as always moving from the narrowly religious towards the wider secular world. The almost universal dismissal of Little Richard’s gospel output by rock critics is a case in point. One suspects that this dismissal is motivated by the artist’s own declaration that his gospel records and ministerial career represent a recantation of his wild and wayward life as a rock’n’roller; the prodigal son’s return.

But, although Richard did indeed originally leave his religious household in Macon, Georgia, in order to perform the bawdy and profane music it prohibited, he retained a lifelong devotion to the church, and its gospel is arguably as fundamental to grasping his sound as his secular influences. A non-binary history would highlight the decisive influence on Little Richard of the guitar-swinging gospel performer Sister Rosetta Tharpe, whose career was a series of rebellions against the strictures placed upon women within the church and black people in America. He may not have known that Sister Rosetta also took same-sex lovers, but he did remember that she gave him his first paying gig when she invited him, aged just 14, to open for her show in Macon.

Indeed, the separation between secular and sacred performance – no matter how fiercely it tends to be enforced on either side – might need to be bridged in order to truly appreciate the ecstasy in Little Richard’s sound. In all the hollerin’ and screamin’ that earned young Richard the nickname War Hawk while singing in church as a child, we might hear an “aesthetics of possibility” as scholar Ashon Crawley terms it in his book Blackpentecostal Breath. He writes of a collective breathing practice particular to Pentecostal worship – with its signature ecstatic method of “speaking in tongues” – and holds it up as an inexhaustible and improvisatory response to brutal violence against black bodies, past and present. Little Richard rattled the dance halls with the power of this breath.

When Little Richard died, among the remembrances I read was one from the queer performance artist Ron Athey (also brought up in the Pentecostal church), of the gift of a religious tract that the star offered when they met in Los Angeles. I also recall Richard’s offerings of tracts and ministry after his rock concerts, like the one I attended at BB King’s Bar and Grill in 2007. As different as his recorded rock and gospel output might sound, there is also something unified – what I would term blackqueer – in the continuous breath with which he voiced them both.

Like many of my generation, born in the 1970s, I first became aware of Little Richard when he effectively snatched the wig off the Grammys in 1988. Invited to announce the best new artist award, he brought the audience to their feet by castigating the Recording Academy’s failure to ever give him an award, which he proceeded to remedy by repeatedly announcing himself as the winner. At the time I was anxiously torn between nominees Terence Trent D’Arby (Watley won), so I mistook Richard to be a campy relic from another era. Rewatching this scene now on YouTube, I see a masterclass in how to take up a space that you have already earned more than twice over. I hear the connections between the femme emancipation in Little Richard’s wayward Lucille (“You won’t do your sister’s will”) and Watley’s independent 80s woman “looking for a new love”. I understand how much of the DNA for D’Arby’s soulful rock stomp and vocal pyrotechnics on a song like Dance Little SisterGood Golly, Miss Molly.

Rock’n’roll, legend has it, helped integrate America in the 1950s. The scene Little Richard made at the 1988 Grammys was a caution against thinking about music history in such progressive, putatively post-racial terms. He instead called attention to the ways in which black innovation can get reduced to what historian Shane Vogel called “black fad performance”: novelty that can be quickly consumed and then forgotten. From Harry Belafonte’s Calypso in the 1950s to black TikTok dancers today, blackqueer performers are especially vulnerable to being received as fabulous but disposable. History gets sorted out into who counts and who doesn’t.

As white nationalism has returned to the corridors of power in the US, challenging easy tales of historical progress, we all could do well to consider the inspiriting power of blackqueer Pentecostal breath, and the way it allows those who breathe it to survive, resist and flourish. I think about the massive Beaux Arts train station in Macon, Georgia, designed by the same architect as New York City’s Grand Central Station, a monument to the segregated world that Little Richard Penniman was born into. The sign designating the “colored waiting room”, to the left side of the main entrance to the grand hall, is literally chiselled in stone, as confident a prediction of the permanence of white supremacy as one could imagine. The layout of the station clearly indicated the subordinate position black Americans had in the country that they built. But in the margins of this grand design, another plot was always brewing.

When I travelled to Macon to research Little Richard’s early years, I was taken aback by the still intimidating grandeur of this now-shuttered edifice. And I was awed to think how a skinny kid from the Pleasant Hill neighbourhood, teased for his limp and effeminate manner, might have found within his small frame a voice like Joshua’s, fit to bring the walls of this modern Jericho tumbling down.

Too black, too queer, too holy: why Little Richard never truly got his dues

Little Richard Says He’s No Longer Gay Because He ‘Wants to Be Saved’

When you think of gay icons from the fifties, there’s only a couple names that come to mind: Little Richard and Liberace. Well, you can strike Little Richard from the list — he just came out as NOT gay.

The rock legend sat down with 3ABN, a Christian TV and radio network. During his interview, he said he didn’t identify as gay anymore, and wanted to spend his final years living “like Jesus.” He said, “You know, all these things. So much unnatural affection. So much of people just doing everything and don’t think about God. Don’t want no parts of him.”

This is a change of heart for the singer. Though ordained as a minister in 1970, he’d always been upfront about his sexuality. In Playboy, he told John Waters:

And in a 2012 GQ interview, he said “We are all both male and female. Sex to me is like a smorgasbord. Whatever I feel like, I go for. What kind of sexual am I? I am omnisexual!”

We wish Little Richard the best, though his desire to go back into the closet makes us immeasurably sad. If you believe in a God, it doesn’t help anyone to think that God doesn’t want you to be who you are. After all, we once heard someone say “God is love.”

 Little Richard Says He’s No Longer Gay Because He ‘Wants to Be Saved’

“Tutti Frutti” Singer Little Richard Says I’m Not Gay No More [VIDEO]

Apparently, Little Richard came out as gay a while ago. Also apparently, Little Richard says he is no longer gay. 

“When I first come in show business they wanted you to look like everybody but yourself,” Richard said. “And, anybody that comes in show business they gone say you gay or straight… God made men, men and women, women.”

Reportedly, Little Richard told Penthouse magazine he was gay way back in 1995.

However, it seems like the Rock & Roll legend can’t make up his mind.

Lastly, seeing Little Richard without the perm (or lace front), make up and eye liner has use confused as hell.

Little Richard’s Queer Triumph

The legend himself sometimes sought to distance himself from the L.G.B.T.Q. community. But his queerness is what made him a dynamic performer.

It was during a 1966 concert in Paris when Little Richard, drenched in sweat, told a mostly white audience, “I’m ready, ready, ready teddy, I’m ready, ready, ready teddy!” He took off his soaked shirt and the men and women pleaded for it as he swung it over his head like a helicopter, carefully considering who he would bless with his dripping D.N.A.

For those in the audience, it must have been fantastical to see, and a deeply erotic thing to witness. To think, in 1966, a black queer man — over the course of his life he would identify himself as gay, bisexual and “omnisexual” — could be a sex god. He was a symbol of brazen sensuality, three years before Jimi Hendrix would use his tongue and guitar to catapult a nation beyond their prudish sensibilities at Woodstock.

Little Richard, who died Saturday, showed us what sexuality, queerness and passion looked like onstage. When he first rose to prominence in the 1950s, it was more common for popular performers such as Frank Sinatra or Ray Charles to don a suit and tie. Even in the 1960s, he was an anomaly — James Brown may have matched him onstage in exuding sexual energy, but the Godfather of Soul’s sartorial choices remained primarily urbane until the 1970s.

Little Richard’s style was a reckoning between the sweaty southern Baptist church revivals he witnessed as a child, and the raw sensuality that characterized jazz and blues. He bridged and made sense of the flamboyance and theatricality of the black church, and fed it to millions of hungry consumers. And he did it all while embracing a femininity that can be directly traced to his queerness.

We often think about the history of rock ’n‘ roll through the lens of white artists and record executives profiting from black culture, but it’s rare we recognize that the musicians being stolen from have often not only been black, but queer as well. Artists like Little Richard are often seen as separate from their sexuality and gender performance, even though those are the very things that informed their innovation.

Josephine Baker, Ma Rainey, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Zora Neale Hurston and James Baldwin to name just a few — it would not be a stretch to say that mainstream culture as we know it is a black queer project, often appropriated by others but birthed by black queer people.

One of the primary ways we remember and memorialize our biggest stars is through onscreen dramatizations of their lives; often, these images play a huge part in the mythmaking of their personas. This format is also a common way to erase more complex facets of those figures. In the 2000 biopic “Little Richard,” there is no mention of his queerness, no attempt to connect his gender performance to his brilliant artistry. Likewise, in the 1991 biopic “The Story of Josephine Baker,” there is no reference to Baker’s reported relationships with women.

In 1989, Langston Hughes’s estate threatened legal action against Isaac Julien, the director of “Looking For Langston,” a fictional feature about gay relationships, and the coordinators of a film festival where it was to be shown, if they did not remove direct references to Hughes from the film. One of those coordinators, Ada Gay Griffin, told The Los Angeles Times she believed the estate opposed the film’s L.G.B.T.Q. subject matter. (Hughes’s sexuality has been a subject of dispute among scholars.)

Removing black queer identities from our recorded histories, including film, makes it seem as though iconoclasticism happens by chance. More accurately, creative people who lived or are living in the tension of both queerness and blackness have brought forward brilliant worlds that we all benefit from.

Not recognizing this leaves us with a series of horror stories, such as Whitney Houston and Luther Vandross, popular black figures who were never able to live their fullest truths. It has also led generations of black queer children to believe people like them haven’t contributed anything to culture, when the opposite is true.

At times, Little Richard himself would attempt to distance himself from facets of his queer identity, publicly denouncing homosexuality and his natural urges. Such denial can be its own form of admitting queerness. Yet it matters that despite these pronouncements — and unlike Houston or Vandross — his performance and aesthetic always remained overtly queer and transgressive, as if it was a second skin he couldn’t wash off, no matter how much he attempted to reject it. In performance if not in his personal life, at least, he embraced what made him so special.

The loss of Little Richard, the person, is sad. But he remains living through the work of so many artists who followed in his footsteps: Aretha Franklin, Prince, Marilyn Manson, Björk, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and on and on.

Now is an opportunity to show reverence to the artist. It’s also the right time to remind ourselves that black queer contributions have changed the way we live, think and in the case of Little Richard, listen.

Myles E. Johnson (@rapturemyles) is a Brooklyn artist and the author of the children’s book “Large Fears.”

Little Richard: The Architect Of Rock N’ Roll is No Longer Gay

In an interview with Rolling Stone, legendary rock n’ roll artist Little Richard admitted that, just a few months shy of his last birthday, he still has “it” as a performer despite reports that he was “clinging to his last breath.”

The death-bed rumors might have started after a troubled by sciatica and a degenerating hip caused Little Richard (born Richard Penniman) to perform only sparingly in recent years and hasn’t always managed to play up to his usual standards. In June 2012, he was forced to stop a show, telling the crowd, “Jesus, please help me – I can’t hardly breathe. It’s horrible.”

But even with that little setback, the 87-year-old Little Richard is still alive and well and kicking. William Sobel, who has represented him for 30 years said, “He said, ‘You know, I want you to talk to [the press] because I’m really annoyed this thing started on Facebook. Not only is my family not gathering around me because I’m ill, but I’m still singing. I don’t perform like I used to, but I have my singing voice, I walk around, I had hip surgery a while ago but I’m healthy.’”

Little Richard Used to Describe Himself as Gay, Omnisexual but Changed His Outlook at 84

For the last sixty years, flamboyant rock and roll icon Little Richard has been struggling to come to terms with his sexuality and his faith in God.

Richard, who is now 86, recently spoke on 3ABN Today about his choices and his life.

„Anybody that comes in show business, they gon‘ say you gay or straight. God made men, men and women, women… You’ve got to live the way God wants you to live… He can save you.“ Little Richard

Little Richard – The Last Original Black Symbol of the two worlds of Rock and Roll

(May 10, 2020). We may never be able to erase the images of Little Richard – the once self-proclaimed “Queen of Rock and Roll” (dubiously to Elvis’s “King”), the creator of such lyrics as “a-wop-bop-a-loo-mop-a-wop-bam-boom” and titles like “Tutti Frutti” – a song whose lyrics had to be cleaned up from what their original intent suggested (think “good booty” instead of “aw rooty”).

Little Richard, with his flamboyant personality, his unique piano pounding and his shrieking falsetto, was just as important to American music history as just about any other musician of the 20th century, and no amount of obfuscation of that history will change it.

Little Richard, born Richard Wayne Penniman in 1932, passed away Saturday, May 9, from bone cancer.  He was 87.

While most tributes will focus on his music – the many rocking hits he had between 1955 and ‘58 being chief among them – this blog will address what is perhaps his most enduring legacy: his undying quest for recognition in an industry where it often came too little, too late.  

In the world of rock and roll, there are often two main prisms through which its history is viewed.

A black one and a white one (one’s sexuality might also come into play, but we’ll get to that in a moment).

The black perspective is that our people originated rock and roll, or the jazz and blues music that inspired it, and that black musicians rarely if ever get their just due.  White artists adapted the music, took credit for it – while only acknowledging the black musicians’ influences after they’d achieved massive commercial success with it – and reaped the greatest rewards for styles they clearly copped from black musicians.

Admittedly, as a black man, it’s not fair to authoritatively articulate the white perspective, but, using the various music boards of which I’m a member as a basis, as well as the reactions of some white people when it’s suggested that artists like Little Richard, Fats Domino and Chuck Berry were the true originators of rock and roll, it’s clear that there’s less appreciation for the role that those and other black musicians had in laying the foundation for the careers of  people like Elvis Presley, the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and so many others down the line.

Even more telling is the reaction from some – mostly non-blacks – when an artist who doesn’t fall into the traditional definition of “rock and roll” is inducted into its hall of fame.  The most recent examples are Whitney Houston, the Notorious B.I.G. and, last year, Janet Jackson, all of whom drew disdain from rock purists who felt that these acts didn’t belong – despite R&B and hip-hop music being musical descendants of the very same blues that started rock and roll nearly seven decades ago.

Adding to this dichotomy is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame itself, which – for its part – usually navigates the issue of race more neutrally, while more fairly acknowledging the role that black musicians played in creating and popularizing the music, even while rock’s purist fans don’t. 

It is within this context that the RRHOF inducted its inaugural class of “Performers” in 1986; six of the ten artists were black (and all were legends): Chuck Berry, James Brown, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Fats Domino, and Little Richard.  

Little Richard was the last of those original six to leave us when he passed away Saturday. Chuck Berry and Fats Domino both died in 2017, while Brown and Charles died in 2006 and 2004, respectively. Cooke was killed in 1964.

The importance of Little Richard’s role in the creation of rock and roll cannot be overstated, as even rock legends like Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney and Elvis Presley have attested.  Elvis reportedly once referred to Penniman as “the greatest” after acknowledging his influence during an encounter between the two in 1969.  McCartney learned his early-Beatles shouting vocalizations from Penniman while the Beatles opened for him in the early 1960s…before they blew up themselves.

And Mick Jagger, upon learning of Penniman’s death on Saturday, took to Instagram to acknowledge the man, calling him “the biggest inspiration of my early teens. . . . 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.”

There are countless other tributes and statements of respect to Penniman from rock legends throughout history, but citing the King, the most successful member of the Fab Four, and the leader of the greatest rock band ever, are more than enough to make the point. 

Yet, for as many words as Jagger unequivocally used to sing Little Richard’s praises, they still don’t seem to do justice to the role he played in shaping rock and roll.  Nor do they convince diehard detractors who still don’t believe that Penniman’s influence on – or importance to – rock and roll was as essential as, say, Elvis Presley’s.

But that just speaks – again – to the two different prisms through which we view these things, differences that are mostly driven by race.  

Consider that, of the four white artists who were in that class of ten original RRHOF inductees, all four – Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis and the Everly Brothers – recorded covers of Little Richard tunes during their rises to stardom.

Elvis notably recorded covers of four Little Richard tunes, “Tutti Frutti,” “Rip It Up,” “Long Tall Sally” and “Ready Teddy,” for his first two RCA albums in 1956.  When Presley performed “Ready Teddy” on the Ed Sullivan Show in September of that year, the episode received one of the highest TV ratings in history with an 82.6 percentage share and an audience of 60 million viewers. Elvis’s first two albums, of course, went on to sell millions of copies.

Part of the lack of attribution to Little Richard was perhaps due to his own youthful ignorance at the time.  He once told Rolling Stone magazine in 1970 regarding the song “Ready Teddy” the following: 

“(John Marascalco and Robert Blackwell) brought me the words and I made up the melody and at the time I didn’t have sense enough to claim so much money, because I really made them hits.  I didn’t get the money, but I still have the freedom.”

Today it is only Marascalco and Blackwell whose names appears on the writing credits for that rock and roll classic.

Presley, regarded as the King of Rock and Roll for more than six decades, was often the target of Little Richard’s ire when discussing his own fame. Richard famously said in interviews that “if I were white, there never would have been an Elvis Presley.”

Whether one agrees or not, it’s certainly worth exploring his premise. 

Both Little Richard and Elvis experienced their peaks around the same time, with Richard’s biggest hits happening between 1955-58 and Elvis’s beginning in 1956 and carrying into the early ‘60s.  During that time, Little Richard had already bridged racial gaps and had white people listening to and buying his brand of rock and roll music, but Elvis clearly took that music to a wider audience, during a racially tense era when no black artist could have achieved the kind of success he did.

And it wasn’t for lack of trying, including by three black artists whose styles were also influenced by Little Richard.

Godfather of Soul James Brown – the hardest working man in show business – put out hundreds of records throughout the 1960s (and into the ‘70’s) with very few getting into the pop top 20. Brown, who once said that Little Richard was the “first to put the funk in rhythm,” never had a No. 1 pop hit during his career.

Sam Cooke, who toured with Richard in 1961, and Otis Redding, whose gruff singing style mimicked Richard’s soulful yowls, both were on the verge of superstardom when their lives were tragically cut short while they were hitting their primes.  Even if they had lived, it’s hard to imagine either of them rising above the glass ceiling that existed for black artists during the tumultuous 1960s.

Little Richard was indeed his own biggest advocate as no one could sing his praises better than he did himself.  It was easy for us music fans – black and white – to discard his claims as outlandishly wild and excessive, mainly because of the brashness with which they were delivered and the androgynous package from which they came.  

For instance, white people who’d exalted Elvis and the Beatles at the expense of Little Richard often cite numbers while rendering his claims as preposterous – both in numbers of total records sold and in the higher number of artists who had claimed the Beatles or Elvis as influences.  Put simply, there was no way an artist like Little Richard could have been more influential to rock and roll than Elvis or the Beatles because he didn’t sell nearly as many records or because he only had a fraction or the artists linking their rock and roll roots to his work…circular logic when considering that this was Richard’s point: there’d be no them without him.

Or perhaps his detractors would go more technical, stating that Richard never inspired a rock artist to pick up a guitar because he didn’t play one himself, despite all the evidence that rock and roll was as much about attitude as it was about an artist’s instrument of choice.  It was also about a swinging beat – one often created, mimicked and/or punctuated by Little Richard’s pounding piano riffs – and the raw (at times sexual) energy that Little Richard brought to the stage.

These detractors’ logic was flawed but expected given the lenses through which it was presented.

Less understandable was the lack of love Richard received from his own community.  We black folks were just as guilty of disowning him, for reasons that seem inane today.  We watched his antics during the 1980s and dismissed them as campy humor, with some even looking on with disdain as the rock legend piled on claim after claim of being “the innovator,” “the originator,” “the emancipator,” “the architect” – the very epitome of rock and roll itself.  

He had to renew these claims as we black Gen-Xers developed more of an interest in rock while witnessing our own newer heroes like Prince and Michael Jackson blur genre lines and explode to superstardom during the first half of the 1980s.  We were awed that they were the first black artists of our lifetimes to experience such massive crossover success while we rarely recognized the bridge-builders who came before them, Little Richard among them.

We were even quietly liberated by the notion that MJ and Prince could express their feminine sides as we threw around the new word we’d learned – “androgynous” – in describing their make-up-enhanced looks; their long, processed hair; and their overtly sexual cavorting on stage and video (especially Prince).

Little Richard, upon witnessing this adoration of Prince and MJ, would give us the verbal smackdown we needed while reminding us that it was he, not they, who had started all of this. With his famously high pompadour and thickly lined eyelashes in tow, he’d admonish us for thinking it was anyone but him who first brought this type of color and excitement to music and onstage.

But we still didn’t take him seriously. His flamboyantly gay persona had clouded our view of history, or our willingness to view his part in it. While we could accept the dubious sexuality of artists like Prince and MJ – both of whom left reasonable doubt as to whether or not they were actually gay, Little Richard was that over-the-top, self-proclaimed “Queen” who referred to himself as the “Georgia Peach,” and even “the founder of gay.” Even as Prince flirted with the very question of his sexuality (“am I straight or gay?” in the song “Controversy”), we didn’t want someone answering the question outright in the affirmative – and with as much fervor as Richard had.

This view often played out in the general discussion of who influenced MJ and Prince more.  We would brush Richard aside as mere noise while elevating people like James Brown and Sly Stone, artists whose own brands of funk – as well as James’ outlandish stage performances – would likely not have existed were it not for Little Richard.

Little Richard was quieted somewhat in his later years, particularly after he was included among that first class of inductees into the RRHOF but possibly because of the serious health issues he faced – including a broken hip and a heart attack in 2009 and 2013, respectively.  

In some ways, the RRHOF milestone validated him and all the arguments he’d laid out during the many decades before, even if it didn’t bring Penniman all of the riches that it had brought his (white) rock and roll peers during their heyday.  

But even in his older age he found a way to make that case again, lest we all forget. 

In 2010, when Rolling Stone magazine ranked him a respectable 8th in their 100 Greatest Artists list, most of the other artists in the rankings had tributes written by their peers.  But Richard took it upon himself to write his own, stating: 

“The Rolling Stones started with me, but they’re going to always be in front of me. The Beatles started with me — at the Star Club in Hamburg, Germany, before they ever made an album — but they’re going to always be in front of me. James Brown, Jimi Hendrix — these people started with me.

“I fed them, I talked to them, and they’re going to always be in front of me.”

100 Greatest: See where Little Richard ranked in this blog’s list of the 100 Greatest Black Artists.

It’s a shame we didn’t join Richard Wayne Penniman in making his case while he was here.  Now that he’s gone – the last of the original six black inductees into rock’s hallowed halls – who’s gonna carry the torch and remind us where it all started…?

P.s.  Of the ten original RRHOF inductees in the “performers” category, only two are still alive: Jerry Lee Lewis (84 years old), and Don Everly (of the Everly Brothers; 83).

P.s.s  Of the 233 artists inducted in the “performers” category, 81 are black artists.  Dozens more have been inducted in the categories of “Early Influences” and as “non-performers,” while others have been included for “musical excellence.”

You can also register for free to receive notifications of future articles by visiting the home page (see top for menu).

Obituary: Little Richard, a flamboyant pioneer

Off stage, he set the benchmark for wild and debauched behaviour. He was the devout believer in God who indulged freely in the lurid temptations of fame.

On stage, he was a one-man hurricane, the manic piano playing and raspy voice appealing across the racial divides of segregated America.

He lit the beacon of a revolution in music in the late 1950s and inspired a legion who took it forward.

„Mick Jagger used to watch my act,“ he would boast. „Where do you think he got that walk?“

Richard Wayne Penniman was born in Macon, Georgia, on 5 December 1932. His mother was a devout Baptist with 11 other children. She had meant to call him Ricardo but somehow a spelling error crept in.

His father was a preacher, albeit one who ran a nightclub and sold moonshine. Richard’s early musical influence was the Pentecostal Church. He loved the wild dancing in the Holy Spirit and the speaking in tongues.

As a child he put on his mother’s lipstick and dress to entertain his sisters – a crime for which his father tied him to the bed and made hideous use of a whip.

He was the butt of homophobic jokes at school and walked with a limp due to a birth defect. When Richard was 15, his father kicked him out.

„My daddy wanted seven boys, and I had spoiled it, because I was gay,“ he later said.

He began singing rhythm and blues, which his parents saw as „the devil’s music“. He adopted on stage his childhood nickname – Little Richard – despite being 5ft10 (1.77m) without his heels or bouffant hair.

In a rare interview, the 84-year-old “Tutti Frutti” singer disavowed what he now calls an „unnatural affection.“

Rock and Roll legend Little Richard is shocking fans with a new announcement: ‘I’m not gay no more!’

During a sit-down with 3ABN, the 84-year-old singer, who was sans his signature wig and make-up, shared that he is dedicating his last years on Earth to living “like Jesus.”

“Anybody come in show business, they’re going to say you’re gay. Are you straight? Are you a homosexual something? They’re going to say it. But God, Jesus, he made men, men, he made women, women, you know? And you’ve got to live the way God wants you to live.”

“You know, all these things. So much unnatural affection. So much of people just doing everything and don’t think about God. Don’t want no parts of him,” he said in his first interview in years.

Obviously, this is a complete 180 compared to his past statements about his fluid sexual orientation.

In a 2012 GQ interview, Richard exclaimed, “We are all both male and female. Sex to me is like a smorgasbord. Whatever I feel like, I go for. What kind of sexual am I? I am omnisexual!”

And in a 1995 interview with Penthouse, the “Tutti Frutti” singer shared, “I’ve been gay all my life and I know God is a God of love, not of hate.”

“Regardless of whatever you are, he loves you. I don’t care what you are. He loves you and he can save you. All you’ve got to do is say, ‘Lord, take me as I am. I’m a sinner.’ But we all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. The only holy, righteous person is Jesus and he wants us to be just like him because, in order to go to Heaven, we’ve got to look like him,” Richard said. “I don’t want to sing rock and roll no more. … I want to be holy like Jesus.”

Clearly, Black Twitter had some thoughts on Richard’s new straight lifestyle and his new look:

Little Richard Calls Same-Sex Relationships ‘Unnatural’ was originally published on

Copyright © 2021 Interactive One, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright © 2021 Interactive One, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

little richard gay

Can you believe Little Richard is 80 years old? He’s had a long and illustrious career, extending back to 1948. That’s over half a century! Wowee! Who doesn’t love a bit of ‘Tutti Frutti”? Since I don’t know all that much about Little Richard, I fell into a black hole reading his Wikipedia page. Little Richard was a FREAK (in the best way) back in the day – he got into voyeurism at 15 and was even arrested for having sex with a couple in a car shortly after. He also did drag for a good many years, as well. Get yours, Little Richard.

In any case, all this is to say that he’s finally decided to retire, telling Rolling Stone:

“I am done, in a sense, because I don’t feel like doing anything right now.

“I think my legacy should be that when I started in showbusiness there wasn’t no such thing as rock’n’roll. When I started with ‘Tutti Frutti’, that’s when rock really started rocking.”

Well, that’s fair enough. I sure as hell will not be working as an 80-year-old, I hope. Of course, performing for a living is a bit different because it’s something you love, but it’s still hard work. Time to kick back and enjoy the fruits of your success!

Can you believe Little Richard is 80 years old? He’s had a long and illustrious career, extending back to 1948. That’s over half a century! Wowee! Who doesn’t love a bit of ‘Tutti Frutti”? Since I don’t know all that much about Little Richard, I fell into a black hole reading his Wikipedia page. Little Richard was a FREAK (in the best way) back in the day – he got into voyeurism at 15 and was even arrested for having sex with a couple in a car shortly after. He also did drag for a good many years, as well. Get yours, Little Richard.

In any case, all this is to say that he’s finally decided to retire, telling Rolling Stone:

“I am done, in a sense, because I don’t feel like doing anything right now.

“I think my legacy should be that when I started in showbusiness there wasn’t no such thing as rock’n’roll. When I started with ‘Tutti Frutti’, that’s when rock really started rocking.”

Well, that’s fair enough. I sure as hell will not be working as an 80-year-old, I hope. Of course, performing for a living is a bit different because it’s something you love, but it’s still hard work. Time to kick back and enjoy the fruits of your success!


The way out was music. He developed a wild piano style in the manner of Esquerita, a gay New Orleans performer he’d met at the bus station. Richard began hitting the keys hard, often breaking the strings.

In 1955, he auditioned for a Los Angeles-based label, Speciality Records. Richard was vocally powerful but somehow rather flat. The producer, Bumps Blackwell, abandoned the studio and, in a moment of rock ’n‘ roll history, suggested a trip to a Dew Drop Inn.

Richard spotted a piano and, more importantly, an audience. He leapt up and crashed out a new number: Tutti Frutti. „A-wop-boppa-loo-bop-alop-bam-boom.“

It is a series of explosive yelps that capture the lightning bolts of love. It speaks of the joys of sex with an accuracy that proper words cannot express. Richard delivers it fully charged with electricity. It is a demand to join the party which cannot be refused.

But the rest of the lyrics were filthy. A songwriter, Dorothy LaBostrie, was scrambled to write with a cleaner version – stripped of explicit descriptions of gay sex.

By this time, their studio booking was running out. „In 15 minutes, we did two cuts,“ said Blackwell. „It’s been history ever since.“

Tutti Frutti sold more than a million records. His next release, Long Tall Sally, did even better. In the next two years, Richard recorded 18 hit singles, including Good Golly Miss Molly and Lucille.

He began touring with his band, The Upsetters. Richard was outrageously camp and tremendously popular. His lyrics were suggestive and the concerts often ended with black and white youths dancing together. In segregated America, this was dangerous stuff.

Sin and salvation

Now rich, he bought a mansion in Hollywood. He was openly gay but also had relationships with women. He even married Ernestine Harvin, a fellow Evangelical, and later adopted a son.

Richard blew thousands on drugs, booze and sex parties. Even by rock star standards, his thirst for depravity was high.

But it jarred with his Old Testament morality. He would take his Bible to orgies and later condemn his own „satanic“ behaviour. It wasn’t a lifestyle to last.

In 1957, Richard – literally – saw the light. During a concert in Sydney, he saw a fireball in the sky above him. He took it as an instruction from God to repent.

It was actually the Sputnik satellite returning to Earth. But Richard threw his diamond rings into the water, gave up sin and popular music, and pledged himself to the Almighty.

A few days later, his original return flight to America crashed into the sea. It was a sign, he said, that God was watching and had taken him under his wing.

Richard began recording gospel records – some produced by a young Quincy Jones – and signed up at Bible college in Alabama. He was soon asked to leave after allegations he had exposed himself to a fellow student.

‘Tutti Frutti’

Little Richard’s smash hits and signature songs included “Long Tall Sally,” “Good Golly, Miss Molly,” and “Tutti Frutti,” all of them released between 1955 and 1958.

The original lyrics of “Tutti Frutti” included references to a gay man: “Tutti Frutti, good booty / If it don’t fit, don’t force it / You can grease it, make it easy.”

During those few years, Little Richard charted an impressive 18 hit songs. But by the end of the decade, Little Richard said God had a different path for him, and Little Richard left secular music and studied theology. But it wasn’t long before Little Richard returned to rock ‘n’ roll.

Directly From My Heart” is a collection of Little Richard’s greatest hits from the 1950s and 60s.

60 years of music

For the next six decades, Little Richard’s faith would share the spotlight with his wop-bop-a-loo-bop-a-lop-bam-boom signature music. He embraced the Good Book and wild, bawdy behavior, including mascara-lined eyes, pencil-thin mustache, and glittery suits.

Little Richard’s impact on the music scene was massive: He sold more than 30 million records worldwide and influenced numerous musicians, from the Beatles and Otis Redding to Creedence Clearwater Revival and David Bowie.

In 1986, Little Richard was one of the 10 original inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and in 1993, he was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grammys.

Born Richard Wayne Penniman in Macon, Ga., Dec. 5, 1932, Little Richard often acknowledged his life as a gay man, but he had a complicated relationship his sexual orientation and his faith.


It’s a shame he feels this way. He ought to spend his last years true to himself with a man who loves him. This is fear and shame driving him, and he already said Jesus take me as I am. If he really believe that, the Jesus knew a long time ago who he was working with and heaped blessings on this talented GAY man. Love you, Richard <3


Many people phases out certain parts of a religion while holding on to others. It is what it is. Hypocrisy and self-delusion are inevitable. But my husband considers himself a “gay christian” and he is as self-aware, self-deprecating, proud and sane as anyone I’ve known. If you are entirely self-accepting, self-comfortable and don’t surround yourself with hateful people it’s possible to keep that balance.


That’s a good point, Donston. I still contend that that only reason your husband is a self-accepting Christian gay man is the same reason that most Christians in America are morally decent human beings: the religion has been beaten into submission by secularism. And ignoring the usual Islamic apologist that can’t get my dick off his breath, the same applies for Muslims and Jews in America. But, that by no means removes the doctrine or the anti-gay sentiments and commandments within them, and there is not a one — And I mean ONE — pro gay statement in the bible, Torah, Koran or Hadith. So this is more cognitive dissonance than self-acceptance, but by all means, if it keeps people believing in iron age gobbledygook and being moral, have at it.


Right, because a story twisted and contorted to fit a bias takes precedence over the multiple OT references of homosexuality being an abomination. Leviticus 18:22, 20:13? Nope… two dudes might have been gay, so that cancels it. And the NT is no better. I’m sorry, but as someone who has read the entire bible (and that was both the most fascinating and most boring read of my life), it’s downright an insult to hear spins from people who obviously have not. I’m an atheist… I shouldn’t have to know religious people’s books better than them, but you often do because then they’ll start with this sentiment that while I support its benign nature, completely contradicts the doctrine. Little Richard is biblically correct, and that’s why it’s oppressive garbage to live by.


Deeply closeted self-loathing homosexual? For a so-called intellectual, that is probably one of the stupid misnomers you could give someone after having read this thread, which I suspect you didn’t, “sister”. I’d say the ones clinging to iron age nonsense that is anti-woman, anti-gay, and anti-science are the real self-loathing homosexuals, but please, Buie, you effing moron, tell me what you gathered in your vast knowledge of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi, and how any of that ties into what I said. Because if there is a pro-gay message that I’m not seeing, then by all means, share it instead of that age old bish copout of “educate yourself” that lazy people retort when THEY don’t have any real answers.


I’m pretty sure that Richard has said about 20 contradictory things throughout the years about himself. He grew up in a certain time, in a very religious environment, has probably went through a lot of sh*t and has always come off as missing a few screws. He’s old and yet still daft and is unlikely to find anyone who doesn’t want him for his money and name. So, why not move on and try to spend your last years “repenting”?

That’s why if you are gay or gay-leaning/homo-dominant it’s important to gain self-respect, self-comfort and self-esteem as young as possible in order to gain some sense and a calm and solid ego, which are slightly easier things to do now than in Richard’s time. Simply coming out and/or having sex with your same gender for years isn’t enough.


Let me get this straight. This man wears more diamonds and Maybelline Bomb Shell mascara that Naomi Campbell and he says he’s not gay. Right. If you believe that I’ve got some shares is Enron and Valu-jet to sell ya.

Tsk! Tsk! Another self hating homo trying to pass as straight. Girl just because lick sashimi doesn’t mean women will taste like that. Just sayin’!

More: UK

And he has identified as ‘omnisexual’, as well as gay and bisexual.

The Good Golly Miss Molly singer had a long-term, on-off relationship Audrey Robinson, in the 1950s and 60s, with Audrey later becoming a stripper and calling herself Lee Angel.

Richard married Ernestine Campbell in 1959, but their marriage ended four years later, with Ernestine citing her husband’s sexuality as one of the reasons for the split.

MORE : Betty the tea lady can be heard stamping her feet on Queen’s We Will Rock You

MORE : Downton Abbey’s Rob James-Collier claims he has been ‘typecast’ after playing a gay character


Richard, who had admitted in the past that he was gay, stated that he believed that homosexuality is unnatural. He was married in 1959 to Ernestine Harvin, whom he met at an evangelical rally. The marriage foundered due to Richard’s sexuality.


Charles White’s 1984 biography „The Life and Times of Little Richard“ revealed that he was homosexual and had embraced a gay lifestyle, a complete contrast to his recently revealed attitude.


Richard Chamberlain was handsome, talented, and the favorite romantic lead of his generation.

He was also gay, but he spent decades in the closet, hiding his sexuality for the sake of his career.

Chamberlain, who starred in the most successful TV series from the ’60s to the ’80s, such as „Dr. Kildare,“ „The Thorn Birds,“ „Shogun,“ „The Man in the Iron Mask,“ „The Bourne Identity“ and „Centennial“ believed that he would lose his leading man status if he assumed his homosexuality.

Chamberlain, now 84, finally opened up about his sexual orientation on his 2003 autobiography „Shattered Love.“

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach’s Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper’s history to have a beat covering the city’s vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts‘ failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

Gerri Hirshey’s Most Recent Stories

Little Richard appears on The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour. Image dated October 1, 1971.

Richard Penniman was a dishwasher who would be king — or queen, depending on his mood. Born in 1932, the third of Charles and Leva Mae Penman’s 12 children, raised in less than regal circumstances in the black neighborhoods of Macon, Georgia, he was compelled to invent his particular brand of majesty. This was Little Richard, “Handsomest Man in Rock & Roll.”

His image was an immaculate conception, a fantasy born of years in traveling medicine shows, drag queen revues, churches and clubs. He was clean — knife-sharp pleats, six-inch glazed and sculpted pompadour, pencil mustache, smooth matte Pancake 31, no-flake mascara. but in Fifties America, this made for a terrible mess. He was black and gay, talented and loud, and worse — much worse — absolutely sure of himself. Even as a slightly crippled child, he was what he is — a confident freak.

Past Grammy Hosts, Ranked

In the offhand manner that had produced Elvis’ “That’s All Right” from between-take noodling in a Memphis studio, Richard’s first session for Specialty Records, cut in New Orleans in 1955, mined a hit from a lewd bit of nonsense the artiste liked to fool with during breaks. It started with him talking in tongues.

His wailing, octave-mauling voice was set off against his own berserk piano (he played so hard, he snapped 80-gauge piano strings) and a cross fire of guitars, drums and horns. The nasty lyrics (“Tutti-frutti, good booty/If it don’t fit, don’t force it/You can grease it, make it easy”) were sanitized for teen protection. In late 1955, “Tutti-Frutti” was a certified, original, unregenerate rock & roll hit. It was followed with a straight run of classics like “Long Tall Sally,” “Good Golly, Miss Molly,” “Rip It Up,” “Ooh! My Soul,” “The Girl Can’t Help It” and “Slippin’ and Slidin’.” Richard marauded with Alan Freed’s rock-package shock troops, tossing off his clothes, mule-kicking the piano, trading top billing with Chuck Berry, Bill Haley, Jetty Lee Lewis and Buddy Holly. In this wide, choppy wake, two decades of white rockers pledged their unholy inspiration to Little Richard; they included Elvis, John Lennon, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Paul McCartney, Mitch Ryder and the Everly Brothers.

Little Richard’s musical legacy is nonpareil — but just as important was his audacious success at being his bad, weird self. Nearly 30 years before Joan Rivers talked to Boy George on The Tonight Show like he was one of the girls, Little Richard bent gender, upset segregationist fault lines and founded a tradition of rock dadaists devoted to the art of self-creation. But unlike the studied incarnations of Bowies, Boys and Elton Johns, Richard never seemed to think about it. He went with the inspiration of the moment, be it divine or hormonal, and caromed like a shiny, cracked pinball between God, sex and rock & roll.

He’s a preacher now, and is startling the world with the revelation that rock & roll is the devil’s music. His forthcoming biography, written in collaboration with his longtime producer and manager, Robert “bumps” Blackwell, and English deejay Charles White (a.k.a. Dr. Rock) is, like his life, bizarre, disjointed and outrageous. Exhibitionist and voyeur, sinner and speechifying penitent — hear him now. And if you can’t believe it, don’t force it. — GERRI HIRSHEY

Richard Wayne Penniman on his formative years:My mother had all these kids, and I was the only one born deformed. My right leg is shorter than the left The kids didn’t realize I was crippled. They thought I was trying to twist and walk feminine. The kids would call me faggot, sissy, freak. I said to Mother, “Why is it that one of my legs is shorter than the other?” She answered, “Shut up, boy. You go and get the dishes washed and don’t worry about it.” But I wanted to hear someone talk about it. I wanted some explanation, I had this great big head and little body, and I had one big eye and one little eye. But God gave me a strong mind and a strong will. I’ve always had a fierce determination to excel. I had so many friends at school. Didn’t trust none of ’em, though. All the kids would call me Big Head. The boys would want to fight me because I didn’t like to be with them. I wanted to play with the girls. See, I felt like a girl. I used to play house with my cousins, and I’d say, “I’m the mamma,” and they’d say, “Hey, Richard, you was the mamma yesterday.”

I always loved Mother more than Daddy. I idolized her. Every movement. I used to just love it when she put powder on her face. I used to watch her, and later I’d sneak up into her bedroom and just sit there, putting rose water and stuff on myself. I’d imitate the things she said and the way she said them. She’d say, “Ooh, it’s so hot.” Then I would go outside and sit with my friends and say, “Ooh, it’s so hot.” I just felt that I wanted to be a girl more than a boy.

My first homosexual experience was with a friend of my family’s who the local gay people called Madame Oop. Madame Oop lived in our neighborhood. He worked on the railroad. He used to come around with another gay guy called Sis Henry. Well, when everybody was getting off work, Madame Oop would catch them, and he would use his mouth on them, and he would pay them sometimes. I didn’t like it. I just stared at him. But I needed him cuz I would get money from him. My ma and dad would nor have approved.

I wanted to be a preacher. I wanted to be like Brother Joe May, the singing evangelist, who they called the Thunderbolt of the West. I have always been basically a religious person. Of all the churches, I used to like going to the Pentecostal Church, because of the music.

We used to have a group called the Tiny Tots Quartet — all of us, the whole family. We used to go around and sing in all the churches and in contests with other family groups in what they called the Battle of the Gospels. I could always sing loud, and I kept changing the key upward.

I used to hang around the traveling shows that came through the town — I’d get up and sing with them. I remember Doctor Nobilio, the Macon town prophet. He wore a turban and a red and yellow cape, and he carried a black stick. I’d sing to attract the people, and then he’d prophesy.

When I started getting into trouble at home, I left and joined up with Dr. Hudson’s Medicine Show. I didn’t tell anybody I was going. I just went. Dr. Hudson was out of Macon, and he used to sell snake oil. He would go into towns, have all the black people come around and tell them that the snake oil was good for everything. But he was lying. Snake oil! I was helping him lie. He had a stage out in the open and a feller by the name of James would play piano. I would sing, “Cal’donia, Cal’donia, what makes your big head so hard?”

The next trawling show Richard joined sold more than snake oil: Sugarfoot Sam was a minstrel show. That was the first time I performed in a dress. One of the girls was missing one night, and they put me in a red evening gown. I was the biggest mess you ever saw. They called me Princess Lavonne. I didn’t know how to walk in women’s shoes, so they had to stand me at the mike and open the curtains. There I was with this red dress on, one long leg and one short one, one long arm and one little arm. They were laughing and saying, “Look at this here.” I looked like the freak of the year.

Weekends, in Atlanta, I used to sing at the theater with all of the entertainers who’d come into town — B.B. King, Jimmy Witherspoon and many others. And that’s when I first met Billy Wright. Billy was an entertainer who wore very loud-colored clothing, and he wore his hair curled. I thought he was the most fantastic entertainer I had ever seen.

Playing locally with his band, the Upsetters, Richard soon began tasting sweet notoriety. His ambition was reaching the outrageous heights of his peacock pompadour: Little Richard and the Upsetters got a tremendous name. Fats Domino would come to the Manhattan Club in Macon, and I would go out to see him. He was a star then, but he was singing blues. Chuck Berry was a star, too, but they were blues singers. They were all afraid of me, cuz they had heard people talking about me, saying, “Have you been to Macon? Have you seen this guy Little Richard? Y’know, he’s terrible. Have you heard him play the piano?”

Lloyd Price came to Macon, and I met him. He was a big star, and he had a black and gold Cadillac. I wanted one just like that. There weren’t that many Cadillacs about. The only place that had one was the funeral home, and you had to die to ride! So I talked to Lloyd, and he told me to send a tape to Art Rupe at Specialty Records in Los Angeles. I went to a radio station in Macon, WBML, and recorded some blues. That was in February 1955. I sent it off to the address Lloyd had given me and just carried on playing with my band. Weeks and weeks went by, and I never heard from Specialty. Then I got into trouble with the law and had to stop appearing in Macon.

There was this lady by the name of Fanny. I used to drive her around so I could watch people having sex with her. She didn’t do it for money. She did it because I wanted her to do it. Well, I got put in jail for it. Lewd conduct, they called it. Then my mother got a lawyer by the name of Lawyer Jacob. He told the court, “This nigger’s goin’ to get out of town.” So they let me go. I couldn’t go back and play there no more because of that. We just stayed on the road.

Then, 10 months after I’d sent my tape, Specialty sent for me. We had been playing in Fayetteville, Tennessee. I got the call early in the morning, “Meet us in New Orleans.”

I had signed a very bad deal with Specialty. If you wanted to record, you signed on their terms or you didn’t record. I got half a cent for every record sold. Who ever heard of cutting a penny in half !

It didn’t matter how many records you sold if you were black. The publishing rights were sold to the record label before the record was released. “Tutti-Frutti” was sold to Specialty for 50 dollars. Most performers were young, inexperienced and uneducated. We were exploited, abused, misused and just plain ripped off by record labels and management as they quickly became aware of the money to be made in the early era of rock & The people who got recorded were the ones who didn’t know or care too much about the money angle of it And when one came along who showed signs of knowledge of the business, he was called a smart nigger who knew too much for his own good. That is why many of the old acts were never heard from after their first one or two recordings. So we knew that to make money, we had to go on the road, and it had to be with the best show in the U.S.

It was quite a show. Barnum and Bailey, you name it! There was never any problem getting girls. At the end of the show, they’d either come round to the dressing room or the hotel, and we’d sort them out — which ones we wanted. But it got difficult to have sex parties after a time, because we were so popular. People couldn’t get to you. I wasn’t used to that It made me feel so important. So big.I felt unusual, you know, like I was a special person I used to like to watch these people having sex with my band men. They should have called me Richard the Watcher.

Then I met Angel. We were in Savannah I saw this beautiful young girl with this fantastic body, 50-inch bust and 18-inch waist. It’s true that nothing grows in the shade!

A few weeks later, she turned up at a concert in Wilmington, Delaware. She had decided to come with me. When we left for Washington that night, she traveled with us in my car. We checked into the Hotel Dunbar and shared a room. She was a wonderful lover. She changed her name to Lee Angel and worked as a nude model, a dancer and a stripper.

I loved Angel and Angel loved me, but in different ways. Marriage was a dream of hers, but I never wanted to marry her. I loved Angel because she was pretty, and the fellers enjoyed having sex with her. She could draw a lot of handsome guys for me. She was some girl.

Buddy Holly was along on marry of the Fifties package tours. According to Richard, they shared more than top billing:Buddy and I were real good friends. He was a nice guy, and he used to idolize my music. He’d go out and do my songs before I came on. On one of our tours, he invited me to his home in Lubbock, Texas, for dinner. When his daddy saw who his son had brought home, he wouldn’t let me in. But Buddy told his daddy, “If you don’t let Richard in, I’ll never come back to this house again.” So they let me in, but they weren’t too happy. I’ll bet they washed them dishes I ate off of about 20 times after we’d gone.

Buddy liked Angel. He was a wild boy for the women. One time, we were playing at the Paramount, and Buddy came into my dressing room. He was having sex with Angel when they introduced his name onstage! He was trying to rush so he could run onstage. He made it, too. He finished and went to the stage, still fastening himself up. I’ll never forget that. He came, and he went!

By 1957, the long road trips had begun to take their toll on Richard. He was feeling abused by promoters and record companies. He was tired of being a star. It was during a tour of Australia that he realized the evil of his ways:On our fifth date of the two-week tour, we left Melbourne for Sydney, and 40,000 people came to see me at the municipal outdoor arena. That night, Russia sent off that very first Sputnik. It looked as though the big ball of fire came directly over the stadium about two or three hundred feet above our heads. It really shook my mind I got up from the piano and said, “This is it. I am through. I am leaving show business to go back to God.”

There were 10 days of the tour left to run, but I would not work anymore. I demanded passage back to the States for the total entourage, 10 days early. The incredible thing is that the plane we were originally scheduled to return on crashed into the Pacific Ocean. That’s when I felt that God really had inspired me to do the things I did at the time.

Back home, Richard handed his mother the keys to his Cadillac and set off to toil in the fields of the Lord: Me and Joe Lutcher [a bandleader turned evangelist] got a team together called the Little Richard Evangelistic Team. We started traveling across the country, and we helped many people through the ministry. I served at the tent meetings, doing all the menial tasks like ushering, tightening the ropes, showing slides and collecting questions from the audience. I shared in the ordinance of humility by washing the feet of other members before taking communion. My life changed completely.

I felt unusual, like I was a special person. I used to like to watch these people having sex with my band men. They should have called me Richard the Watcher.

At Oakwood; a theological institution in Huntsville, Alabama, the elders were soon discomfited by the strange behavior of their star pupil:The elders didn’t like me taking my yellow Cadillac on the campus. They didn’t like the way the kids swarmed round me, asking me to sing my rock & roll hits. I didn’t like school any better than I did when I was a boy in Macon. I was taking Biblical courses, and I was taking English an’ all, but English was so hard for me, I had to let it go.

I thought that everyone who went to Oakwood would be an angel. Then I learned that there were some devils there, too.

They had discovered that I was a homosexual, and I resented the discovery. I had worked with a young guy in another city, and I had him show himself to me. I didn’t touch him, but he went back and told his father, who was a deacon of the church. The church had a board meeting to let me now that it was wrong. I was so mad. At the time, I thought they were being hypocritical. But really, to be truthful, they weren’t. I was. I was supposed to have been living a different life, and I wasn’t.

Thus Little Richard, rock weirdo, was resurrected, and be crossed the ocean for a triumphant English tow:When I first saw the Beatles, I didn’t think they’d make it. Then Brian Epstein booked me to play at the Cavern with them. A couple of weeks later, he had me headlining a big concert at a theater in Liverpool. They were a support band, with the Swingin’ Blue Jeans. Cilia Black and Gerry and the Pacemakers. Brian Epstein said to me, ‘Richard, I’ll give you 50 percent of the Beatles.” I couldn’t accept, cuz I never thought they would make it. Brian said, “Take the master [of the Beatles songs] back to America with you and give it to the record company for me.” I didn’t do that, but I did call up some people for them. I phoned Art Rupe. and I also got in touch with Vee Jay, but I didn’t take a piece of them.

So then I was booked for a tour of clubs in Hamburg. and I took the Beatles with me. We spent two months in Hamburg. John, Paul, George and Ringo. They would stay in my room every night. They hadn’t any money, so I paid for their food. I used to buy steaks for John.

Paul would come in, sit down and just look at me. Like. he’d say, “Oh, Richard! You’re my idol. Just let me touch you.” He wanted to learn my little holler, so we sat at the piano going “Ooooh! Ooooh!” till he got it.

I developed an especially close relationship with Paul, but me and John couldn’t make it. John had a nasty personality. He was different from Paul and George; they were sweet. George and Paul had humble-type personalities. You know, submissive. John and Ringo had strange personalities, both of them. John would do his no-mariners [fart], jump over and aunt-fanny all over the room, and I didn’t like it. It would bother me. I didn’t want to hear that stuff, y’know.

As the Beatles climbed the charts on both sides of the Atlantic, Richard’s next record, ‘Bama Lama Bama Loo,’ foundered and sank at Number 85 on the ‘Billboard ‘charts:When ‘Bama Lama’ flopped, it was devastating to me. So I just got me a band together and went on the road. I went all over the country touring, one-night stands. I played in some dumps. I played some snake holes, some rat holes and some pigpens. Oh, my God!

You see, I had been out of the public’s eye in America for so long that they had forgotten me. It was like starting all over again, like when I was just a teenage boy. There were all these English groups, the Beatles, the Stones, Herman’s Hermits, Gerry and the Pacemakers, and they just overshadowed my thing. But I was determined to make it.

Richard, rock chameleon, decided another image change was in order; he scared up some cash and had himself crowned king — complete with robe, scepter and a throne borne by groaning lackeys:The King returned to his rightful throne, to push everybody off that can’t hold his own. When I retired from show business, millions of my fans were stunned. They wept and they moaned and they groaned because the King had left his subjects. Now, I was back, and I was a tornado, fast and round, faster than sound. I put $16,000 into my new act, which was very, very glamorous and elaborate, 17 musicians, singers, dancers and comedians. The Little Richard Show. My voice was the most exciting voice in the world. It was a sassy voice, and I gave a message and it was sassy. Then I would get very sweet and lovable, and it fit my beautiful personality. I was not in harmony with the church at that time. My music made your liver quiver, your bladder splatter, your knees freeze — and your big toe shoot right up in your boot.

Little Richard’s road show included a guitarist first known as Maurice James, later known as…I first met Jimi Hendrix in Atlanta, Georgia, where he was stranded with no money. He had been working as guitarist with a feller called Gorgeous George, a black guy who sported curly hair and wore these fabulous clothes, which he made himself. Jimi was staying in this small hotel, and he came by to see us. He had watched me work and just loved the way I wore these headbands around my hair and how wild I dressed. He wanted to come with me, so my manager rang Mr. Hendrix in Seattle to see if it was OK for him to join us. Al Hendrix told Henry, “Jimi just idolizes Richard. He would eat 10 yards of shit to join his band.” So he came with me. He was playing like B.B. King, blues. He started rocking, though, and he was a good guy. He began to dress like me, and he even grew a little mustache like mine.

While Hendrix headed off to rock festivals, Richard went to Las Vegas. They wanted him for two weeks at the Aladdin Hotel:The big Vegas hotels had refused to book me before. The star that was to open at this time was ill, so they decided they wanted me. I had no time at all for preparation. I said, “I’ve gotta be gorgeous.” So I had this red jacket made, and it had inch-square mirrors sewn all over it. I made ’em put out all the lights except two little baby spots. With those spots jiggling above me, there was light sparkling all over the place, bouncing off the mirrors. Man, they loved it! It was 15 minutes before I could do my first number. They loved the jacket almost as much as they loved the show. For the second show, there was a line all the way through the casino. People couldn’t even get to the gaming tables for the line. They had originally planned on two shows a night, but we wound up doing three because there was no way to accommodate all those people.

Tucked magisterially away in pricey clubs, Richard remained perched on his throne. Soon, be began to suffer nosebleeds — but it wasn’t from the height:I was getting deeper and deeper into drugs. All I wanted was to have sex with beautiful women and get high. I spent thousands and thousands of dollars getting high. I missed a lot of engagements. I got behind financially. I got behind in my life. I only weighed about 115 pounds. All I was interested in was getting high. I’d be riding all over the city of Los Angeles looking for cocaine. I just had to be froze. They shoulda called me Little Cocaine, was sniffing so much of the stuff. My nose got big enough to back a diesel truck in, unload it and drive it right out again. Every rime I blew my nose, there was flesh and blood on my handkerchief, where it had eaten out my membranes.

A habit like mine cost a lot of money. I was smoking marijuana and angel dust, and I was mixing heroin with coke. I felt funny when I didn’t have anything. It was costing me around $1,000 a day — and there was always trouble with the dealers. I became very nasty, which I never used to be. Cocaine made me paranoid. It made me think evil. The drugs brought me to realize what homosexuality had made me. When I felt that, I wanted to hurt. I wanted to kill. I wanted to fight those boys who didn’t want to do what I wanted them to do. Then I starred to get so demanding that the cats working for me were getting me drunk so they could be free.

When his brother Tony died of a heart attack, Richard returned to the arms of the Lord: Tony’s death was the saddest moment of my life. But it was also one of the happiest. I knew after Tony died that I was going to come out of show business. I felt that it would be a joy to come out Tony’s death was a door that I didn’t want to be opened, but it was opened. And I walked through it. To come out of show business and take my stand on God’s side.

I had heard God speaking to me to go out and tell the people of the Goodness and how He had snatched me from the Burning. I wanted people to know that the only rock they needed was the Rock, Christ Jesus. The only roll they needed was the Roll of Glory, to have their names on the Roll of Heaven. That’s the only rock & roll they need.

Richard Penniman, penitent and preacher, now sings from the pulpit: I want to say, “Hello out there. I’m so glad to be with you today. My name is Little Richard. I’m the rock & roll singer that you’ve heard about through the years. I was making $10,000 for one hour. Just jumping up in the air with all of the makeup and the eyelashes on. With all of the mirrored suits and the sequins and the stones, going all over the place. I had forgotten all about God. Going from town to town, country to country, not knowing that I was directed and commanded by another power. The power of darkness. The power that you’ve heard so much about. The power that a lot of people don’t believe exists. The power of the Devil.”

I gave up rock & roll for the rock of ages. I cut off my crown of hair for a crown of life. I didn’t know that homosexuality was wrong, until I read it in the Bible. God never intended for me to go with anybody but a woman. God said, “Little Richard, you’re a man.” I said, “I’m a woman.” God said, “You lie.” He said, “I made you a man. When your mamma brought you home, she brought a boy. If you hadda been a girl, she would have named you Martha. You are a boy.”

Jesus saved Little Richard, a homosexual all my life. Jesus took me. And when I went back home, my curls was gone. I didn’t have no more curls. My eyelashes was gone. I didn’t have no makeup on. God changed me round. He gave me a new walk. In heaven, my name is still Richard Penniman. I may call myself Marie down here, but in Glory I’m still a man.

In This Article: Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Little Richard

Want more Rolling Stone? Sign up for our newsletter.

This Canadian radio presenter was told he sounded ‘too gay’ for radio

During a rare interview with Three Angels Broadcasting Network, a Christian-oriented company, the 84-year-old Little Richard proclaimed his faith while also denouncing both homosexuality and transgender identity as ‘unnatural.’

Share this with

Little Richard has denounced homosexuality, two decades after he publicly came out as gay.

The rock ‘n’ roll legend said in an interview with Penthouse in 1995 that he has been ‘gay all [his] life’, despite previously saying homosexuals were ‘sick’.

However, he has now gone back to those feelings, and said in a rare interview that gay relationships are ‘unnatural’.

During an interview with Christian TV network Three Angels Broadcasting Network, the 84-year-old suggested that he was no longer gay due to his religious beliefs.

The Tutti Frutti singer said: ‘Anybody come in showbusiness, they’re going to say you’re gay. Are you straight? Are you a homosexual something? They’re going to say it.

‘But God, Jesus, he made men, men, he made women, women, you know? And you’ve got to live the way God wants you to live.’

Richard added: ‘I’m a sinner, but we all have sinned’, with the hosts nodding along.

The legendary showman later said: ‘You know, all these things. So much unnatural affection. So much of people just doing everything and don’t think about God. Don’t want no parts of him.’

Little Richard has in the past discussed his varied sexual history, boasting of his love of orgies in several interviews.

You May Also Like

He recovered sufficiently to headline at 2013′s Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend. This comes just a little after Richard suffered a heart attack and told how he didn’t even realize he was having one when it happened and right before he was in a car accident.

According to the article, he now spends his time designing clothes and praying — and thinking about the impact left by his groundbreaking early singles like ‘Tutti-Frutti’ and “Long Tall Sally.”

In 1995, he proudly told Penthouse, “I’ve been gay all my life and I know God is a God of love, not of hate.” More recently, in a 2012 profile in GQ, he candidly discussed partaking in orgies with both men and women, and described himself as