I remember the first time I was ever asked who my favorite musical artist or band was. I’m not sure who it was that asked me, probably one of my uncles, but I was about 6 or 7 years old. I had become obsessed with music already, thanks to constantly being in the car with my parents listening to Chicago’s oldies station, and listening to music on a walkman they had given me with a few cassettes. Without hesitation, I said “Little Richard.”
Little Richard died today at 87 years old from cancer, having been respected as a pioneer in rock & roll music since his breakout in the 1950s. He was active as a performer from 1947 until his health became too poor to continue. His impact on music is immeasurable, with artists like Elton John, Prince, and countless others claiming Little Richard as an influence.
It’s a shame that later in life Little Richard seemed to have been influenced by his faith to be so self-loathing about his own homosexuality. It was well known since the early days of his fame that he was gay, and for a while he embraced it, but had been known to speak out against LGBT people despite being one himself. He claimed to have been cured by God, later claimed to have “always known he was gay”, occasionally identified as bisexual, and in one of his last public appearances, called being gay or transgendered an “unnatural affection” that “goes against the way God wants you to live.”
I hope that in spite of the self-hate that would be required to say things like that about himself, that he found some peace in the last few years, and that he’s remembered primarily for what he did when he believed in his own right to be who he was. Little Richard will always be a music legend. It says a lot about how pathetic our society has always been towards people of the LGBTQIA+ community that someone as powerful and influential as Little Richard could be poisoned against himself, when he was in the rare position of being able to fight for so much more for disenfranchised people. Rest in peace, Little Richard. Hopefully you finally have some.
Photo Credit: Robbie Drexhage