Little Richard, the musician often branded a founding father of rock’n’roll, has died aged 87. Though his cause of death remains unknown, he had been in poor health for several years, and his death has been confirmed to Rolling Stone by his son, Danny Jones Penniman.
The musical pioneer began his career as a teen in the 40s, and had a series of hits beginning with “Tutti Frutti” in 1956, inspiring generations to come. His flamboyant performance style, which sometimes incorporated drag, was notably echoed in later generations of musicians such as Prince.
Other artists that credited Little Richard as inspiration are The Beatles – who recorded covers of his songs and opened for him in Hamburg in the early 60s – and David Bowie, who once claimed: “without him, I think myself and half of my contemporaries wouldn’t be playing music.”
While Little Richard made a move to gospel music in the late 50s, also becoming a preacher, he returned to secular music in 1962 and battled with the conflict – often in relation to his sexuality – throughout the rest of his life.
“Rest in peace Richard,” writes former band member Kelvin Holly, in a post shared on Instagram. “This one really stings. My thoughts and prayers go out to all of my bandmates and fans all over the world. Richard truly was the king!”
Other musicians and celebrities, including Chance the Rapper, Billy Bragg, and Noel Fielding have paid tribute via social media.