Sunday, May 10, 2020

Queer Rock 'n' Roll Legend Little Richard Is Dead at 87

Little Richard, who is widely credited as a founding father of rock 'n' roll, died yesterday of bone cancer, The New York Times notes that his influence as a performer was immeasurable. It could be seen and heard in the flamboyant showmanship of James Brown, who idolized him (and used some of his musicians when Little Richard began a long hiatus from performing in 1957), and of Prince, whose ambisexual image owed a major debt to his.

Although rock ’n’ roll was an unabashedly macho music in its early days, Little Richard, who had performed in drag as a teenager, presented a very different picture onstage: gaudily dressed, his hair piled six inches high, his face aglow with cinematic makeup. He was fond of saying in later years that if Elvis was the king of rock ’n’ roll, he was the queen. 

His signature song, the first of his nine Top 40 hits, was "Tutti Frutti," which depending on who you ask started out as anthem about gay sex before its lyrics were cleaned up. 

Still, Little Richard will always represent a sad existence to this once-closeted gay boy of the 1970s and '80s. If it had just been my own self-loathing that made me feel embarrassed for him then I would only fault myself. But his clear struggle between his faith and his sexuality -- at one point he became a preacher and more recently he denounced gay and transgender people as "unnatural" -- represented everything that is wrong with organized religion, and I found his willingness to go along with it humiliating for everyone concerned. Still, you have to believe that the joy his music brought so many people is something that will be remembered far longer than the harm he caused so many LGBTQ people -- himself included -- during his 87 years on planet Earth. RIP.

I think these remembrances by two Kathys I adore sum things up nicely.

Jamie Foxx's finest moment, playing Little Richard on "The East Hollywood Squares."


James Dwight Williamson said...

Elton John said the four opening bars of Tutti Frutti were some of the greatest music of all time . He should comment for Little Richard, not Madame “ I fucked up and now I’m gonna blame it on Andy Cohen and Anderson Cooper”. She is vile, and Melissa Rivers don’t really love her per James Duke masons Podcast , He has done four I liked them all. His mother , Melissa , Leslie Jordan and Gay Governor of Colorado.

Jack said...

Religion is a mental illness. RIP Little Richard.