The music of Little Richard, who died on Saturday at the age of 87, was one of the genuine architects of not only rock and roll but R&B, soul, hip-hop and other genres as well. Few artists can truly be said to have directly inspired the Beatles, James Brown, the Rolling Stones, Prince and countless others; his songs, sound and often underrated singing are such a DNA-level foundation of modern music that many recent generations of superstars probably aren’t even aware that the flourishes in their singing styles or the samples in their songs originated with him. Even Bob Dylan — whose music bears few obvious traces of Richard’s sound — wrote in his high school yearbook that his goal was to “join Little Richard.”
Dylan was one of the many artists paying tribute to the legendary musician on Saturday, ranging range from Ringo Starr and Mick Jagger to Michelle Obama and Elton John to Spike Lee (who posted a TV commercial he directed with Richard and Michael Jordan) and Cyndi Lauper (at whose wedding Richard was pastor); from Public Enemy’s Chuck D (who cites a Richard reference in P.E.’s 1989 classic “Fight the Power”) and Ava DuVernay (who remembers getting a generous weekly tip from him while she was a struggling waitress) to even New York Senator Chuck Schumer, whose Little Richard influence is perhaps less evident.
In a series of tweets Saturday afternoon, Dylan wrote, “I just heard the news about Little Richard and I’m so grieved. He was my shining star and guiding light back when I was only a little boy. His was the original spirit that moved me to do everything I would do. I played some shows with him in Europe in the early nineties and got to hang out in his dressing room a lot. He was always generous, kind and humble. And still dynamite as a performer and a musician and you could still learn plenty from him. In his presence he was always the same Little Richard that I first heard and was awed by growing up and I always was the same little boy. Of course he’ll live forever. But it’s like a part of your life is gone.”
In his presence he was always the same Little Richard that I first heard and was awed by growing up and I always was the same little boy. Of course he’ll live forever. But it’s like a part of your life is gone.
— Bob Dylan (@bobdylan) May 9, 2020
Mick Jagger wrote, “I’m so saddened to hear about the passing of Little Richard. He was the biggest inspiration of my early teens and his music still has the same raw electric energy when you play it now as it did when it first shot through the music scene in the mid 50’s. When we were on tour with him, I would watch his moves every night.”
Fellow rock pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis said in a statement, “It is with a heavy heart that I ask for prayers for the family of my lifelong friend and fellow Rocker ‘Little Richard.’ He will live on always in my heart with his amazing talent and his friendship! He was one of a kind and I will miss him dearly. God Bless his family and fans. Rest In Peace, my friend.”
God bless little Richard one of my all-time musical heroes. Peace and love to all his family. 😎✌️🌟❤️🎵🎶💕☮️ pic.twitter.com/H2lzKbX3tm
— #RingoStarr (@ringostarrmusic) May 9, 2020
— Mick Jagger (@MickJagger) May 9, 2020
Dust To Digital is such a incredible site and curated dedication. Since we are in the era of social distancing please RT this as the ultimate tribute to The Quasar Of Rick and Roll!!! RT RT lets get a million RT on the Incredible Little Richard. My FTP lyric was a 1989 nod to him https://t.co/0ZL7V0z7kc
— Chuck D (@MrChuckD) May 9, 2020
Without a doubt – musically, vocally and visually – he was my biggest influence. Seeing him live in my teens was the most exciting event in my life at that point. Goosebumps, electricity and joy came from every pore. pic.twitter.com/Enno1mgfTO
— Elton John (@eltonofficial) May 9, 2020
With his exuberance, his creativity, and his refusal to be anything other than himself, Little Richard laid the foundation for generations of artists to follow. We are so lucky to have had him. Sending all my love to his family and friends today.
— Michelle Obama (@MichelleObama) May 9, 2020
I’m very sorry to hear about Little Richard. He was there at the beginning and showed us all how to rock and roll. He was a such a great talent and will be missed. Little Richard’s music will last forever.
Love & Mercy, Brian pic.twitter.com/kcak6Rf4Re
— Brian Wilson (@BrianWilsonLive) May 9, 2020
I served soul food brunch to Little Richard every Sunday for a year while waitressing at Aunt Kizzy’s Back Porch in LA. I was a college student. He tipped me a crisp $100 bill each week on a $75 breakfast with friends. This was 30 years ago. Helped me so much. God rest his soul. https://t.co/L0vo1tPdBv
— Ava DuVernay (@ava) May 9, 2020
So sad to hear that my old friend Little Richard has passed. There will never be another!!! He was the true spirit of Rock’n Roll! pic.twitter.com/yU1EJmjejU
— Keith Richards (@officialKeef) May 9, 2020
So sad Little Richard passed away. He married my husband and I. He was really one of the truely great rock and roll singers and one of the rock and roll pioneers. He will be missed💜🙏🏻🌷
— Cyndi Lauper (@cyndilauper) May 9, 2020
— Carole King (@Carole_King) May 9, 2020
RIP Little Richard. The man who invented It. Elvis popularized it. Chuck Berry was the storyteller. Richard embodied the Spirit of RocknRoll. Maureen and I were so honored being the first marriage he conducted. Were lucky to know him. He lives forever in the Underground Garage.
— Stevie Van Zandt (@StevieVanZandt) May 9, 2020
#LittleRichard was a genius, pure and simple. He paved the way for (code for he was ripped off by)so many artists. Watch his YouTube performances to see what I mean. I met him on "Down and Out in Beverly Hills", in which he was hilarious. What a legacy. God bless you, Richard. https://t.co/Mz9UPzwYth
— bettemidler (@BetteMidler) May 9, 2020
The Originator. The innovator. The musician, performer who influenced generations of artists….has left. You were AWESOME #LittleRichard!!! Your talent will reverberate forever. Well done sir. Rest well❤ pic.twitter.com/PsFH4SOUZy
— Viola Davis (@violadavis) May 9, 2020
A couple weeks ago I randomly decided to read up on the legendary Little Richard on wiki. I learned then about how he developed The Beatles and saved The Rolling Stones pic.twitter.com/lUEvYG1Mew
— Chance The Rapper (@chancetherapper) May 9, 2020
In 1990 when I wrote the Young Guns record, I had the chance to ask some of my heroes to record with me – Elton John, Jeff Beck, and an all star cast came together to have fun and just make music.
One day, Danny Kortchmar, the famed producer said “who else do you know?” pic.twitter.com/BIUuW1MBnU
— Jon Bon Jovi (@jonbonjovi) May 9, 2020
In the world of music, it doesn’t get much better than Little Richard.
We have lost a musical giant.
Thank you for the joy and passion that your music brought to us all. May you rest in power.https://t.co/da5ulArmMD
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) May 9, 2020