Little Richard, Rock 'n' Roll Legend and 'Tutti Frutti' Singer, Dead at 87

Little Richard Dead

Little Richard, the legendary rock, soul and funk artist and singer of hits like “Tutti Frutti” and “Good Golly Miss Molly,” died Saturday. He was 87.

The singer’s son confirmed his death to Rolling Stone, but the cause of death is unknown.

One of the founding fathers of rock ‘n’ roll, Richard (neé Richard Wayne Penniman) produced heaps of hits starting with “Tutti Frutti” in 1956 and continuing with tracks like “Long Tall Sally,” “Rip It Up,” “Lucille” and more. He was a renowned inspiration to many who came after him, including Elton John, The Rolling Stones and David Bowie, who were drawn to Richard for his thumping piano style, sexually charged lyrics and gospel-tinged vocals that spiked with energy. His songs changed music history, and have been covered by The Beatles, The Kings and Elvis Costello, among others.

Richard turned his back on music in 1957, attending the Alabama Bible school Oakwood College, where he became an ordained minister. In 1959, he released a gospel album called God Is Real before returning to secular rock in 1964. He was one of the 10 original inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, and was also awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grammys in 1993.

Early in his career, Richard was cast in films including Don’t Knock the Rock (1956) and The Girl Can’t Help It (1957). On the TV side of things, Richard guest-starred on shows like Miami Vice, Martin and Baywatch. One of his best known appearances was a 1994 episode of Full House where he appeared as himself, the uncle to Jurnee Smollet-Bell’s Denise (video below).  In 2006, he served as a judge on the short-lived reality game show Celebrity Duets, alongside David Foster and Marie Osmond.