Singer-songwriter Little Richard, real
name Richard Wayne Penniman, died Saturday. He was 87.
Penniman's son. Danny Jones Penniman,
told The New York Times that his father died of cancer.
Penniman is best known for songs such
as “Tutti Frutti,” “Long Tall Sally,” and “Good Golly Miss
Molly,” as well as his flamboyant performing style.
Paul McCartney said in an op-ed that he
learned “everything he knows” from Penniman.
“In the early days of the Beatles we
played with Richard in Hamburg and got to know him,” McCartney
said. “He would let us hang out in his dressing room and we were
witness to his pre-show rituals, with his head under a towel over a
bowl of steaming hot water, he would suddenly lift his head up to the
mirror and say, ‘I can’t help it cos I’m so beautiful.’ And
“A great man with a lovely sense of
humor and someone who will be missed by the rock and roll community
and many more. I thank him for all he taught me and the kindness he
showed by letting me be his friend. Goodbye Richard and
a-wop-bop-a-loo-bop,” he said.
Penniman was involved with two women,
Audrey Robinson, who rejected his marriage proposal, and Ernestine
Harvin, his only wife. Penniman and Harvin adopted Danny Jones when
he was age 1. The marriage ended after five years.
In 1985, Penniman said that his father
kicked him out at 15 because he was gay. Police in Long Beach,
California arrested Penniman in 1962 for spying on men urinating at a
Trailways bus station toilet.
Penniman also insisted that he had been
saved from homosexuality.
“God gave me the victory, I'm not gay
now, but you know, I was gay all my life,” he said during a Late
Night with David Letterman appearance in 1982. “I believe I was
one of the first gay people to come out. But God let me know that he
made Adam be with Eve, not Steve. So, I gave my heart to Christ.”
In his autobiography published in 1984, Penniman called homosexuality
“unnatural” and “contagious.” He also described himself as
In a 1995 interview with Penthouse,
Penniman said: “I've been gay all my life.” But in 2017, he once
again denounced sexual minorities, saying homosexuality and
transgenderism go against “the way God wants you to live.”
Penniman was inducted into the Rock and
Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.