Paul McCartney said he learned “everything he knows” from Little Richard in a tribute to the late rock legend posted on social media early morning. Richard, who shared stages with the Beatles early in their career and whose songs the group covered extensively, died of cancer Saturday at the age of 87.
“From ‘Tutti Frutti’ to ‘Long Tall Sally’ to ‘Good Golly, Miss Molly’ to ‘Lucille’, Little Richard came screaming into my life when I was a teenager,” McCartney wrote. “I owe a lot of what I do to Little Richard and his style; and he knew it. He would say, ‘I taught Paul everything he knows.’ I had to admit he was right.”
The young Beatles performed with Richard at a show during one of their long residencies at the Star-Club in Hamburg, Germany, which is where the group truly learned their craft.
“In the early days of the Beatles we played with Richard in Hamburg and got to know him,” McCartney wrote. “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 he was.”
The Beatles covered Richard classics like “Long Tall Sally,” “Lucille” and “Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey!” — nearly always sung by McCartney. And he paid tribute to the singer in 1965 with the obvious homage “I’m Down,” which one could argue is the best Little Richard song that Little Richard never wrote.
“A great man with a lovely sense of humor and someone who will be missed by the rock and roll community and many more,” McCartney concluded. “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.”
Musicians and public figures ranging from Mick Jagger and Michelle Obama to Spike Lee and Bob Dylan paid tribute to Richard on Saturday.