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Little Richard, Rock ‘n’ Roll Pioneer, Dies At 87

CIRCA 1957: Musician Little Richard performs onstage with his band as his saxophone player Grady Gaines stands on the piano in circa 1957 in a scene from the movie ‘Mister Rock And Roll.’ (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

American singer Richard Wayne Penniman better known as Little Richard, one of the pioneers of the first wave of rock’n’roll, has died. He was 87.

Little Richard died of bone cancer according to his agent of 40 years, Dick Allen, who confirmed the “Good Golly Miss Molly” singer’s death to PEOPLE;

“Little Richard passed away this morning from bone cancer in Nashville. He was living with his brother in Nashville. 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.”

Little Richard was an influential figure in popular music and culture for seven decades, his most celebrated work dates from the mid-1950s, when his charismatic showmanship and dynamic music, characterized by frenetic piano playing, pounding backbeat and raspy shouted vocals, laid the foundation for rock and roll, leading him to be given the nickname “The Innovator, The Originator, and The Architect of Rock and Roll”.

Penniman’s innovative emotive vocalizations and uptempo rhythmic music also played a key role in the formation of other popular music genres, including soul and funk, respectively. He influenced numerous singers and musicians across musical genres from rock to hip hop; his music helped shape rhythm and blues for generations to come.

Penniman was honoured by many institutions. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as part of its first group of inductees in 1986. He was also inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. He was the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Recording Academy and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation.

In 2015, Penniman received a Rhapsody & Rhythm Award from the National Museum of African American Music for his key role in the formation of popular music genres and helping to bring an end to the racial divide on the music charts and in concert in the mid-1950s changing American culture significantly. “Tutti Frutti” was included in the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress in 2010, which stated that his “unique vocalizing over the irresistible beat announced a new era in music”.

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