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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Little Richard: Undisputed King of Rock

Little Richard single-handedly initiated the soulful, energetic climax of rock and roll music. He alone stands as the seminal master of the beat. Before Richard's fleeting, urgent voice and breakneck, pounding piano, rock music lacked the authentic and primal sexual drive that came to define its primary motive. In two minutes, a Little Richard recording delivers the testosterone-charged incentive that drives listeners to Blueberry Hill to get busy in the backseat.

"If she's got a figure made to squeeze
(She can't help it, the girl can't help it)
Won't you kindly be aware, the girl can't help it
(The girl can't help it)

"If she mesmerizes, every mother's son
(She can't help it, the girl can't help it)
If she's smiling, beefsteak become well done
(She can't help it, the girl can't help it)"

"The Girl Can't Help It" by Little Richard

Other early rock and roll legends like Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Sam Cooke sung about sex and used sensuality to enhance their performances, but Little Richard channeled the real thing. He did not filter the message. Instead, he unabashedly expressed raw, impassioned dispatches that left little to innuendo or to the imagination.

Teens in the '50s soon discovered that mundane Pat Boone covers of Little Richard songs were nothing but substandard musical copies reformed and recorded for the virgin ears of a white pop audience. But, most of these young people knew the truth: the Boone covers were meant to encourage holding hands while Little Richard Specialty records induced rocking and rocking "hard." Teens loved Richard. One must wonder the size of the multitude that reached home plate as he supplied the cheerleading on the station of their car radios.

"Well, long tall Sally, she's built for speed
She got everything that Uncle John needs

"Oh baby, yes, baby
Ooh baby, havin' me some fun tonight, yeah

"Well, I saw Uncle John with bald head Sally
He saw Aunt Mary comin' and he ducked back in the alley

"Yeah, baby, woo baby
Havin' me some fun tonight, yeah"

"Long Tall Sally" by Little Richard 

Dare I call the flamboyant performer by his given name of Richard Penniman? No, this would be a misnomer. You see, Richard Penniman has to be Little Richard -- all clowning aside. Why? Because Little Richard is "pretty" (He even calls himself so.), talented, and dominant. His dynamic music and charismatic showmanship are unmatched. At best, Richard Penniman may be an alter ego of this man who calls himself "the real king of rock and roll." Little Richard is the honest projection of the personality of a man who has had a pivotal impact on rock. He wrote; he sang and played; and he invented a "killer" style.

"Ike and Tina Turner got an earthquake sound
But I'm the man from Macon and I'm gonna put 'em down
Elvis Presley have you heard the news?
I'm gonna walk all over your blue suede shoes"

"The King of Rock and Roll" by Little Richard

During a period of racial tension in the United States, Little Richard attracted mixed-race audiences at a time when public places were divided into "white" and "colored" domains. He opened the door that brought the races together with the ultimate tool of integration -- soulful, sensual music. Prior to Little Richard, audiences were all black or all white although during Richard's early days, they were still segregated (blacks on the balcony and whites on the main floor).

Little Richard has been called the Quasar of Rock. Performers in the '60s continued to imitate Little Richard's style and sound. Their passable covers of Richard's tunes managed to draw new fans to the beat. Bands from the Beatles to Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels did their best to pay homage to his music.

"From the early early mornin' till the early early night
You can see Miss Molly rockin' at the house of blue lights.

"Good Golly Miss Molly, sure like to ball.
Good Golly, Miss Molly, sure like to ball
When you're rockin' and a rollin' can't hear your momma call"

"Good Golly Miss Molly" by Little Richard

With his mascara-coated eyelashes, his high pompadour hair, and his tremendous exotic appeal, Little Richard also largely triggered rock's androgynous overtures. In many ways he personified rock's gleeful sexuality and spirit of rebellion. Richard has remained loud and proud. As he announced from a stage shortly after his 66th birthday, "I'm still beautiful. I'm not conceited; I'm convinced!"

"I asked my baby for kiss
She shook her head like this
I asked my little girl for kiss
She shook her head around like this
She said, 'Ooh, yeah'

"Bama lama, bama loo


"Now, I dig that style
It's drivin' me wild with
Bama lama, bama loo"

"Bama Lama Bama Loo" by Little Richard

The seemingly ageless Little Richard continues to tour with undiminished spirit and passion for his music. He has weathered rumors of "selling out" to a Gospel conversion and the negativity associated with accusations of sexual diversity. In 2000 he may have described his past most accurately when he told the Los Angeles Times, "I was what you called back in that day -- a freak. I was flamboyant in every direction. I'm glad I'm able to look back on it and say, 'Thank you, Lord,' and go on."

Little Richard was among the first 10 inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. In 1993 he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. He performed at Bill Clinton's presidential inaugural in 1992. He has also received the Rhythm & Blues Foundation's Pioneer Award.

A Little Richard recording is pure rock and roll. It is not meant to be analyzed and dissected for special themes and meanings. It is meant to be turned on and turned up. From the first frenzied notes to the abrupt finish, the message is clear. Drenched in sweet sweat and driving soul, it's the same message that beats in the hearts and throbs through the genitals of lusting teens today, only it doesn't rap and run for five minutes like the tedious strains of the new millennium.

If Mick Jagger couldn't "get no satisfaction" in 1965, you can bet Little Richard played no hand in his anguish. King Richard speaks of love... physical, hot copulation. For well over 60 years, he has preached the simple, satisfying message of "just do it."

"Baby baby baby baby baby,
Don't you know my love for you,
Honey honey honey honey honey,
Get up off of that money,

"Love love love love love,
Ooh! my soul.

"Gimmie gimmie gimmie gimmie gimmie,
Gimmie all the love you got,
Gimmie gimmie gimmie gimmie gimmie,
You got the best of lovin' now,

"Love love love love love,
Ooh! my soul."

"Oh My Soul" by Little Richard

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