The legendary Little Richard passed away on Saturday at the age of 87, ending the career of a rock and roll pioneer and influence on countless artists across decades of music. Richard was born in Macon, Georgia back in 1932 before bursting onto the music scene in 1956 with the release of "Tutti Frutti."
From there, Richard would release a string of songs that captured his energy and scared parents, making him perfect for the rebellious rock generation that would follow. Songs like "Long Tall Sally," "Lucille," "Good Golly, Miss Molly" and several others cemented Richard's legacy and became staples on rock radio and oldies stations into the modern era.
"When I started singing [rock & roll], I sang it a long time before I presented it to the public, because I was afraid they wouldn’t like it. I had never heard nobody do it, and I was scared," Richard told Rolling Stone in 1990. "I was inspired by Mahalia Jackson, Roy Brown and a gospel group called Clara Ward and the Ward Singers and a guy by the name of Brother Joe May. I got the holler that you hear me do – “woo-ooh-ooh” – from a lady named Marion Williams. And this thing you hear me do – “Lucille-uh” – I got that from Ruth Brown I used to like die way she’d sing, “Mama-uh, he treats your daughter mean.” I put it all together."
"I really feel from the bottom of my heart that I am the inventor. If there was somebody else, I didn’t know them, didn’t hear them, haven’t heard them. Not even to this day. So I say I’m the architect," the singer added in the interview.
Richard's music was so powerful that it became a spark for civil rights as it couldn't be played on regular stations despite white audiences, especially younger listeners, thriving on his music. White artists like Pat Boone would re-record many of Richard's songs, like "Tutti Frutti," but it instead helped to introduce the song to a wider audience and gave Richard a chance to breakthrough with his superior energy.
Scroll down to listen to a selection of the rock pioneer's top tracks, including some later work that drew from a more funky element.
Possibly Richard's best known song, "Tutti Frutti" actually was a much dirtier song when originally recorded. The singer changed many of the lyrics to his first recorded release, making it tame lyrically while carrying the energy he'd become known for.
Long Tall Sally
The Beatles recorded a cover of this hit during the heights of "Beatlemania" but it is Richard's version that stands out as a pop culture staple. On top of that, many might know the song from it's use in Predator during the intro helicopter segment featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bill Duke, the latter who would quote the song during the later parts of the film.
"Lucille" was described by Richard during a 60 Minutes interview with Ed Bradley as a song that got him out of a lot of trouble. This due to its popularity and due to its roots in rural Macon, Georgia, comparing it to the train that would roll through town and provide what he felt was the only entertainment at the time.
Good Golly Miss Molly
Taking a little influence from Ike Turner's "Rocket 88," Richard took the song "Good Golly Miss Molly" and made it a little salacious with lyrical tweaks. The result was a song that has lasted as a rock n' roll staple and ended up re-recorded by countless artists.
Keep A Knockin'
"Keep A Knockin'" is an old standard taken by Richard and pumped up with a tempo that would be a signature for the artist throughout his career. It was like taking a horse from a gallop to a full run, straight into taking flight without wings.
Rip It Up
First released by Little Richard as a number one single, "Rip it Up" went on to be recorded by Bill Haley and The Comets, Chuck Berry, The Beatles, and countless others.
Get Down With It
This is actually a tune that became a bigger hit later when re-recorded by British rock band Slade. They based their version on Richard's though, continuing the theme that Little Richard essentially influenced all facets of rock music.