The greatest musical legends are passing away at an alarming pace, with Little Richard now rumored to be clinging to life.
Updated May 3 9 am PT: Little Richard has just denied rumors of his grave health, full update here.
Less than two weeks ago, Prince shocked millions of fans with his untimely death. Now, Little Richard, a revered pioneer of rock n’ roll and a key figure the development of soul, funk, and even hip hop, is rumored to be in critical condition at age 83. Richard, who has suffered through a hip surgery, heart attack and stroke, is now believed to be clinging to life at an unnamed hospital, with close friends and family members lending support.
Funk icon Bootsy Collins may have inadvertently triggered the widespread concern with a tweet that alluded to the critical condition. “A friend, a legend & some say the true King of Rock & Roll. Lil-Richard needs our love & understanding right now….” Collins tweeted over the weekend.
Richard’s family has not issued a statement on the matter. In 2013, Richard suffered a heart attack during a fundraiser for the Recording Academy, and opted to discontinue performing after that point.
Little Richard, whose real name is Richard Wayne Penniman, was born in 1932 in Macon, Georgia, where he has resided in his older years. Richard, born into a deeply segregated and racist environment, first gained notoriety in the Deep South, particularly among black audiences. His wild performance style and showmanship was complemented by his aggressive rock n’ roll music, which ultimately started crossing over towards white audiences.
That crossover sometimes happened directly, with early-moving whites recognizing black artists like Richard. More often, however, the progression happened through white artists, with the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and other rock icons pointing to Richard as a huge influence. Other groups, most notably Led Zeppelin, have been accused of directly copying black artists, with Willie Dixon successfully suing the group in the 80s over a direct rip-off of ‘You Need Love’.
But Richard’s legacy has been properly celebrated and recognized in its own right, with awards that include a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction and countless other accolades. As Bootsy mentioned, Little Richard may claim the title of the ‘True King of Rock n’ Roll.’
Image: Public Domain.