Rock Pioneer Little Richard Dies From Cancer at 87

Rock Pioneer Little Richard Dies from Cancer at 87
Getty Images

The pop culture world suffered a devastating loss once news of the icon’s passing spread early Saturday, May 9.

“A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop-a-wop-bam boom!” is synonymous with its originator, Little Richard. 

In fact, it’s one of countless phrases associated with one of Rock music’s founding fathers.

The genre and pop culture suffered a devastating loss once news of the icon’s passing spread early Saturday, May 9. The news came on the heels of the music industry losing another giant, Andre Harrell.

Little Richard’s lawyer, Bill Sobel told Rolling Stone the cause was bone cancer. He was 87 years old.

It’s hard to distill Little Richard’s life down to just an article, because he lived as loud as his voice. 

Born Richard Wayne Penniman on December 5, 1932 in Macon, Georgia, Little Richard was the third of 12 children. He earned his nickname from his tiny stature as a kid. 

Some 24 years later, Little Richard would shriek his way onto America’s radar with the release of “Tutti Frutti.” Influenced by gospel, but driven by his own flamboyant and unapologetic, gender-bending style, Little Richard would go on to churn out signatures like “Long Tail Sally” and “Good Golly Miss Molly.” 

The pianist, singer and songwriter would have the likes of Prince, Elton John and The Beatles citing him as an inspiration

Across Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, the heavy news visibly took its toll on those who knew him and his work well. 

“This man was literally THE BLUEPRINT of all the world took from. LITTLE RICHARD is THE TRUE KING. LONG LIVE THE KING,” artist and DJ Questlove expressed on Instagram.

“I was once asked, ‘If u could meet one person, who would it be?’ I always said Little Richard. Because, to me, he was rock & roll’s most joyous, rebellious innovator. Thank u for planting that seed, Richard. The world is a much happier place thanks to ur music,” the Foo Fighters tweeted.

Legendary artist and producer Nile Rodgers wrote, “The loss of a true giant. My sincerest condolences go out to his family and friends.”

“‘The Girl Cant Help It’ played a million times in my house when i was little kid in the Fifties, it was my big brothers 78 . it laid out the Rock ’n’ Roll road for me which I gladly followed. Thank you Richard .. thank you .’ Sir Rod Stewart tweeted.

Award-winning director Ava DuVernay even revealed how the singer helped her when she was just starting out in Hollywood—working as a waitress.

"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," she shared on social media. 

As similar stories about Little Richard continue to trickle out, both in quiet moments and loud, one thing remains consistent—the lasting, positive impact he had on those who surrounded him, no matter how close the orbit.

For a man who bucked all societal trends and expectations, Little Richard lived as loud as his music echoed.

According to CNN, Little Richard did not die alone—his brother and son were right by his side.