Little Richard, a musician known for his genre-bending, gender irreverent persona and music has reportedly died. The artist, who was known as one of the founding fathers of rock and roll was 87. The cause of death, according to a statement given to Rolling Stone by Danny Penniman, his son, was unknown.
Born Richard Wayne Penniman, Little Richard was multi-talented as a pianist and singer. From Macon, Georgia, he was one of a dozen children but moved out of his childhood home as a teen because of early signs of his sexuality. He would later have a long, public battle with his sexuality and his Christian upbringing where he would come out, before then denouncing homosexuality as unnatural.
Richard's commercial success came with the track "Tutti-Frutti" which hit high on the Billboard charts. "Good Golly Miss Molly" and "Send Me Some Lovin" all were a part of that start in the mid-1950s helping to establish the rock and roll genre alongside Elvis Presley and more. His work, as well as the work of others, inspired the Beatles — Prince, no doubt, also follows in his footsteps. His legacy is preserved as one of the 10 original inductees in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as well as the recipient of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences' Lifetime Achievement Award.
Little Richard's relationship with Christianity has been a lifelong aspect of his career. It at one point saw him quick performing rock in favor of the gospel. But it has also impacted his thoughts about sexuality.
Little Richard notably wore makeup and wasn't afraid of a wig or clothes typically meant for women. The hit "Tutti Frutti" is considered by some to secretly be about gay sex. Richard has publicly admitted to being intimate with both men and women, even once being jailed for sexual misconduct after being found with a couple in a gas station. In 2012 he described himself as "omnisexual"
"We are all both male and female," he told GQ UK. "Sex to me is like a smörgåsbord. Whatever I feel like, I go for."
He would later go on to call queer sexuality "unnatural affection." The dichotomy would is not out of place for someone born of his generation, who grew up with Christianity as a guiding light.
Rest in power Little Richard.