Rock ‘n’ Roll legend Little Richard has died from bone cancer at the age of 87. The singer’s son, Danny Jones Penniman, has confirmed with Rolling Stone magazine that his father passed away on Saturday morning, May 9.
Little Richard’s attorney Dick Alen gave People magazine some details about the musical pioneer’s final days.
“Little Richard passed away this morning from bone cancer in Nashville. He was living with his brother in Nashville,” said Alen in a statement. “He was battling for a good while, many years. I last spoke to him about two or three weeks ago. I knew he wasn’t well but he never really got into it, he just would say ‘I’m not well.’ He’s been suffering for many years with various aches and pains. He just wouldn’t talk about it much.”
Born Richard Wayne Penniman in Macon, Georgia, in 1932, Little Richard discovered his love of music when he took a part-time job as a teenager at the Macon City Auditorium. After Sister Rosetta Tharpe saw Little Richard perform, she offered him the opportunity to open her show, and that led to him signing his first record deal in 1951 with RCA Records.
With his gender-bending persona, his incredible talent on the piano, and his flamboyant clothes and personality, Little Richard had a series of hits in the late 1950s that are still well known to this day, making him a founding father of Rock ‘n’ Roll music. In 1956 he released Tutti Frutti and Rip It Up, followed by Lucille the following year, and Good Golly Miss Molly in 1958.
Little Richard’s influence on the musicians that came after him is massive, as everyone from The Beatles to Elvis Presely to The Rolling Stones have covered or been influenced by his music. Elton John said in 1973 that after he heard Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis “that was it,” and he “didn’t ever want to be anything else.”
In 1986, Little Richard was one of the ten original inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and in 1993 the Grammys honored him with a lifetime achievement award.
Little Richard is survived by his son, Danny Jones Penniman.