Words by Sebastian Frame - @sebastiandframe
In light of the protesting across the world focusing on racial inequality, sparked by the murder of George Floyd, I began deepening my search for innovative black music, from the blues of Robert Johnson all the way up to '90s Hip Hop. It was during this search that I remembered a fun fact about Bob Dylan that I heard once in passing; under his high school yearbook photo it read ‘Robert Zimmerman: to join ‘Little Richard’’.
As a music fan, I was taken aback by this. Though I tout myself as a lover of music, I was embarrassed to admit to myself that I had never actually heard Little Richard’s music; a prominent figure in music that I seem to have ignored all my years of listening.
In my embarrassment and in my pursuit of wanting to learn more about the history of Black American music, I began my quest in learning about the man and his music. What I learned was astonishing, to say the least.
From Elvis to The Beatles to The Stones to Hendrix, Little Richard played a part in all these artists’ success. With Elvis covering his hit ‘Tutti Frutti’ to worldwide success, having The Beatles support him on tour when they were starting out in Hamburg and having Hendrix as the guitarist in his band, Little Richard played an integral role in the history of modern pop music and his influence in one way or another still resonates to this day. How could an artist be so virtually overlooked in the current culture but in fact be arguably the most influential rock and roll artist of all time?
And why does no one discuss this? That the aforementioned ‘Innovator, The Originator, and The Architect of Rock and Roll’ was a black queer artist. Though most icons embodied their own mythology, Richard gracefully and humbly accepted his place in the pantheon of the all-time greats.
So yes, Elvis is ‘The King of Rock and Roll’. And yes, The Beatles are arguably the most influential band of all time. But everyone in the rock and roll world owes their success in one way or another to Little Richard.
I will continue to look deeper into Little Richard’s life and music, as you all should.
From the little I know; I love you, Little Richard.