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Little Richard

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Georgia, United States (1951 – present)

Little Richard (born Richard Wayne Penniman, December 5, 1932 in Macon, Georgia, United States) is an American singer, songwriter, and pianist, and an early pioneer of rock ‘n’ roll, influencing generations of R&B and rock artists. Many of his fans have proclaimed Richard as The Real King of Rock ‘n’ Roll (in reference to the deceased Elvis Presley, who’s known by the moniker “The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll”). He has also been called the King of Rockin ‘n’ Rollin, Rhythm & Blues Soulin’. His original injection of funk into the rock and roll beat in the mid-1950’s also had a profound influence on the development of that genre of music.

One of twelve children, Little Richard grew up in a Seventh-day Adventist family, but he mostly attended the New Hope Baptist Church in Macon, Georgia (Turner, Hungry for Heaven, p. 19). He also attended Holiness/Pentacostal churches of the U.S. South, where he learned Gospel music. He learned to play the piano and tried to sing gospel music, but he was rejected from some churches for screaming the hymns. His father Charles “Bud” Penniman was a preacher who sold moonshine on the side. In the winter of 1952 his father was murdered and he returned to Macon to perform the blues at the Tick Tock Club in the evening while washing dishes at the cafeteria of a Greyhound bus station during the day. His early recording career in the 1950s was a mix of boogie-woogie music and rhythm and blues, heavily steeped in gospel music, but with a heavily accentuated back-beat, funky rhythm, raspy-shouted vocals, and breathlessly delivered lyrics that marked a decidedly new kind of music that would become known as Rock ‘n’ Roll.

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