Little Richard passed away on Saturday, and so far his cause of death remains unknown. The legendary musician's son confirmed the news of his death, according to a report by Rolling Stone, but did not say how he died. Over the course of his long life, Richard had a number of health issues that may have contributed to his passing this weekend.
Little Richard was one of the biggest icons in rock 'n' roll music — from its creation to the 21st century. He was also an undeniable superstar, with a larger than life persona both on-stage and off. As with many rock stars, that included some entanglement with drugs, alcohol and other risky behavior. At the same time, Richard passed away in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, which could also have played a role.
According to The Life and Times of Little Richard — a biography written by Charles White in 2003 — Little Richard was a teetotaler during his early days in the music industry back in the 1950s. However, by the 1960s, Richard had picked up drinking, smoking and marijuana use. According to White, he became addicted to cocaine later in that decade, and by 1975 he was regularly using heroin and PCP as well.
However, as he struggled with drug addiction, Little Richard struggled with a series of personal religious crises as well. He first became a born again Christian in 1957, and in the late 1970s, he returned to the ministry again. Richard reportedly suffered several personal tragedies in a short time, including the deaths of his brother, his nephew and two close friends, all of which convinced him to get clean and sober, which he did with the help of religion.
The biggest health problems of Little Richard's life came years later, but may have been related to his years of drug use. He began having mobility problems in 2007, which resulted in a hip replacement and acute sciatic nerve pain. In the fall of 2013, he suffered a heart attack at home, according to a report by Rolling Stone at the time. His health problems continued in the next few years, though he and his family kept things relatively private during that time.
There is little hint as to what Little Richard's cause of death might have been, but judging by the conversation on social media this weekend, fans did not seem to care. Many were more interested in discussing his legacy and his cultural impact over the years, calling him a founding father of rock 'n' roll.