We've lost one of the last original icons of rock n roll. In a sea of mid-1950s musical icons, he out-sang em', out rocked-em', out-glitzed 'em, out-lasted almost ALL of his competition. #LittleRichard didn't just dominate the spotlight, HE WAS THE LIGHT!
Some of my earliest remembrances of Richard are seeing him on tv talk shows in the 1980s proudly proclaiming the title of "Architect of Rock n Roll" & demanding credit for being THE guy who popularized gender nonconforming performance in mainstream American society. Certainly the most obvious cultural descendent of Little Richard's persona was Prince, but all of 1970s glam rock traveled the road bravely paved by Richard Penniman. And that's just his MASSIVE influence to the aesthetic of rock n roll. He obviously also popularized one of the cornerstone MUSICAL styles of rock n roll.
However, today I'd like to take time out to reflect on the most remarkable aspect of Little Richard's wide-ranging success - Little Richard was Black & Queer (and OUT) during a time when people of both of those identities were encouraged to either take a back seat, or hide in the shadows. Richard rejected that, very loudly. There was NO ignoring Little Richard, ever. Even when taking breaks from the limelight, Richard always came back, again & again to reclaim his rightful thrown as the TRUE King of Rock n Roll.
His behavior throughout his life has always been controversial. As a devout Christian, he teetered back & forth from being an out-&-proud queer, to being a self-hating ex-queer. This has brought him a lot of scrutiny, but in the case of Little Richard, I don't get mad about it. For me, Little Richard is the ultimate representation of what happens when queer people live in a society where they're treated like they're defective, perverted sinners, & their human rights are "up for debate".
Little Richard (like all LGBTQs) was immersed in a world where queer people are valued only when it's fashionable, & left to die when not. abandoned to plagues. The same is true for most minorities in the USA, but LGTBQs are some of the few whose very existence is STILL considered by many to be morally wrong.
So, the true marvel of Little Richard is that fact that despite EVERYTHING about this country telling him tone it down and move to the background shadows, he managed to still be the BRIGHTEST shining star among some of the top entertainers of all time. THIS is why Little Richard is my ULTIMATE music icon.
I thank him for existing - For showing how things CAN be for people like me - For being one of the first to publicly grapple with all of the psychological struggles of overlapping, intersecting identities - For not fading away, but returning again and again to literally remind America of his contributions and demanding well-deserved credit.
I have taken a number of opportunities to pay tribute to him over the years (as you can see in these attached images), but what I really wish right now is that I could be throwing a huge glittery in-person tribute and celebration of his contributions. I guess that's gonna have to wait.
I friggin' love you Little Richard! I hope you're exactly where you want to be right now, still shining brightly, being THE LIGHT and truly loving yourself