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Saturday, May 09, 2020


Madness personified, and the 1950's exclaimed "WHAT THE FUCK?!!?"

Richard Penniman, better known and beloved as Little Richard, one of the founding fathers of rock 'n' roll, has shuffled off this mortal coil, and I hope and pray that his last word was his signature "WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!" Crazy as a soup sandwich and gayer than a tree full of songbirds, Richard was arguably rock 'n' roll's first badass queer (at least within the mainstream), and you had better believe he did not care what anyone had to say about it. The guy was a showman to the nth degree, possessed of enough energy to power a continent, and his musicianship on the ivories was so far above criticism as to be untouchable. His antics onstage combined the raw energy of early rock 'n' roll with an aura of "I just escaped from a mental institution with my dick in my hands, and I dare y'all to catch me so you can line up to kiss my black ass," which certainly made him a unique presence in his era. (Though, to be fair, Jerry Lee Lewis was arguably the only one of rock's Mount Rushmore who gave Richard a run for his money in the showmanship insanity department.) Simply put, there was much to love about Richard, and one aspect of him that seldom gets brought up is that he taught us straight boys that not only was outright flamboyance fun, it was cool.

So it is with reverence and respect that I bid Little Richard a fond "Requiescat en pace" with not a trace of sadness, because he truly pioneered the uniquely black flavor of American craziness to popular music, and that is a joyous thing indeed.  Thus I close this eulogy  with an anecdote from when I was in my teens, a quote from my mom on Little Richard: 

"Oh, god, Little Richard... When we first saw him on TV in the Fifties, it was like some kind of space-alien had just stepped out of a flying saucer. No one had ever seen anything like that on television, and I distinctly remember saying out loud 'What the hell did I just watch?' when his performance was over. The only thing I can remember that was as crazy around that time was James Brown with that cape, but that's another level of weirdness."

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