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Little Richard death: Elton John, Mick Jagger and Michelle Obama pay touching tributes to rock and roll legend

Sir Elton John said, "Without a doubt - musically, vocally and visually - he was my biggest influence. Seeing him live in my teens was the most exciting event in my life at that point"
Little Richard (Getty Images)
Little Richard (Getty Images)

American singer, songwriter, and musician Richard Wayne Penniman, more famously known as Little Richard, died on Saturday, May 9, in Tullahoma, Tennessee, at the age of 87. The cause of his death reportedly was bone cancer. 

Little Richard rose to fame in the 1950s. His major hits included classics like ‘Tutti Frutti’, ‘Long Tall Sally’, and ‘Good Golly, Miss Molly’. His influence on music in that era and subsequent ones cannot be overstated. The Beatles, Elton John, and Elvis Presley have all cited him as an influence. The singer was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.

Little Richard’s death has triggered a wide array of responses from top musicians around the world. Brian Douglas Wilson of the Beach Boys wrote on Twitter, “I’m very sorry to hear about Little Richard. He was there at the beginning and showed us all how to rock and roll. He was such a great talent and will be missed. Little Richard’s music will last forever. Love and Mercy, Brian.”

Sir Elton John said, "Without a doubt - musically, vocally and visually - he was my biggest influence. Seeing him live in my teens was the most exciting event in my life at that point. Goosebumps, electricity, and joy came from every pore."

The Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger said, “I am so saddened to hear about the passing of Little Richard, he was the brightest inspiration of my early teens and his music still has the same raw electric energy when you play it now as it did when it first shot through the music scene in the mid-50s… He contributed so much to popular music I will miss you, Richard. God Bless.”

Gene Simmons, the bassist and co-lead singer of Kiss, said, “Sadly, Little Richard passed away today. A founding Father of Rock And Roll, his contributions simply can’t be overstated. I had the honor of meeting Richard in his later years and was awed by his presence. He told me, 'I am the architect of Rock And Roll.' Amen! ..Rest In Peace.”

Southern rock, country, and bluegrass musician Charlie Daniels wrote on Twitter, “Just got word that Little Richard has passed away. So many musical memories of this unique talent and we were honored to have him at the Volunteer Jam one year. He was one of a kind. Rest in peace Richard Penniman.”

Steven Van Zandt, also known as Little Steven or Miami Steve, who was the guitarist of E Street, said in a heartfelt message, “RIP Little Richard. The man who invented It. Elvis popularized it. Chuck Berry was the storyteller. Richard embodied the Spirit of Rock-n-Roll. Maureen and I were so honored being the first marriage he conducted. We're lucky to know him. He lives forever in the Underground Garage.”

Beatles drummer Ringo Starr tweeted, “God bless little Richard one of my all-time musical heroes. Peace and love to all his family.”

It wasn’t just musicians who paid him tributes. Actor Viola Davis of ‘How To Get Away With Murder’ fame wrote, “The Originator. The innovator. The musician, performer who influenced generations of artists....has left. You were AWESOME #LittleRichard!!! Your talent will reverberate forever. Well done sir. Rest well.”

American film director, producer, writer, and actor Spike Lee said, “Rest In Peace To One Of The True Creators Of Rock And Roll. This Is The Commercial I Directed With Little Richard And Michael Jordan, 1991.”

‘Star Trek’ actor George Takei said, “Little Richard, who was known for his flamboyant and energetic performances, has died. This old 'Tutti Fruitti' will miss his style and flair. Play the keys among the stars now, sir. You will be missed.”

American filmmaker Ava DuVernay of ‘Selma’ and ‘When They See Us’ fame wrote, “I served soul food brunch to Little Richard every Sunday for a year while waitressing at Aunt Kizzy’s Back Porch in LA. I was a college student. He tipped me a crisp $100 bill each week on a $75 breakfast with friends. This was 30 years ago. Helped me so much. God rest his soul.”

Former First Lady of the U.S. Michelle Obama also paid her tribute to the musician. She wrote, “With his exuberance, his creativity, and his refusal to be anything other than himself, Little Richard laid the foundation for generations of artists to follow. We are so lucky to have had him. Sending all my love to his family and friends today.”