Little Richard, The First Rock Star, Is Dead At 87

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Little Richard, a pioneer and icon of rock ‘n' roll, died Saturday at the age of 87. His son, Danny Jones Penniman, said his father succumbed to bone cancer, in Tullahoma, TN, reports the New York Times
Richard Wayne Penniman was born on December 5, 1932, in Macon, GA. He was the third of 12 children. "I was born in the slums. My daddy sold whiskey, bootleg whiskey," Little Richard told Rolling Stone in 1970. 
Little Richard was raised in a strict religious family, and he gravitated to singing onstage with gospel groups. His parents disapproved of R&B and called it the "devil's music." At 13, Little Richard left his house after his father accused him of being gay. While friends and family called him "Lil' Richard" because of his petite stature, it wasn't until he was 17 that he was given his stage name, Little Richard, by musician and singer Buster Brown. By then, Little Richard left his hometown to follow bigger musical aspirations in Atlanta. 
Inspired by the look and sound of stylish singers Roy Brown and Billy Wright, Little Richard adopted his signature poofy hair, pencil mustache, and colorful persona. In 1951, at 18, Little Richard obtained his first record contract, and five years later scored his first big hit with "Tutti Frutti." The hits kept on rolling after that.
Starting in 1956, Little Richard had a string of three significant singles, "Long Tall Sally," "Rip It Up," and "Lucille." In 1958 he scored another hit with "Good Golly Miss Molly." During that pivotal times, Little Richard also appeared in two musical films, including Don't Knock the Rock and The Girl Can't Help It. While he didn't have another hit after 1958, Little Richard had already secured his legacy in rock ‘n' roll forever — a genre that he pioneered.
"When I first came along, I never heard any rock ‘n’ roll," Little Richard said to Rolling Stone in 1990. "When I started singing [rock ‘n’ roll], I sang it a long time before I presented it to the public because I was afraid they wouldn't like it. I never heard nobody do it, and I was scared."
In 1957, Little Richard claimed to have received a series of signs from God, including inadvertently avoiding a plane crash. These signs made him rethink his life, which led him to put an end to his rock ‘n' roll career and his Hollywood life. He returned to his Christian roots and became an ordained minister. In 1960, he released a gospel album titled God Is Real
Throughout the years, Little Richard battled with his sexuality, drug abuse, musical preferences, and Christianity. He reflected on his strict religious upbringing and how that plagued him during his life.  
In 1995, Little Richard was proud of his sexuality, saying in an interview with Penthouse, "I've been gay all my life, and I know God is a God of love, not of hate." 
In 2009, he said, according to the New York Times, "Although I sing rock' n' roll, God still loves me. I'm a rock' n' roll singer, but I'm still a Christian."
More recently, in 2012, he told GQ that he was "omnisexual," saying, "We are all both male and female. Sex, to me, is like a smorgasbord. Whatever I feel like, I go for."
Just as he battled back-and-forth with Christianity, Little Richard also faced that conflict with his music. In the mid-1960s, he returned to performing rock ‘n' roll with the likes of Jimi Hendrix and the Beatles. 
"We used to stand backstage at Hamburg's Star-Club and watch Little Richard play," John Lennon once said, according to Rolling Stone. "He used to read from the Bible backstage, and just to hear him talk we'd sit around and listen. I still love him, and he's one of the greatest."
From the very start of his career, Little Richard's influence was palpable. Today, those that he inspired remember the exuberant music man and the legacy he left behind. 
"I'm so saddened to hear about the passing of Little Richard," Mick Jagger wrote in a statement, "he was the biggest inspiration of my early teens and his music still has the same raw electric energy when you play it now as it did when it first shot through the music scene in the mid-'50s."
"I'm very sorry to hear about Little Richard," Beach Boys’ frontman, Brian Wilson, wrote on Twitter. "He was there at the beginning and showed us all how to rock and roll. He was such a great talent and will be missed. Little Richard's music will last forever."
Other celebrities, from Michelle Obama to Spike Lee, have been celebrating the life of Little Richard on social media.

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