Little Richard at 90: The Beatles’ poignant memories of their idol

Little Richard, also known as Richard Wayne Penniman, would have turned 90 this week, two years after his death. The music icon was one of the architects of Rock and Roll with 1950s classics like Tutti Frutti and Long Tall Sally. Sadly, his fame, like other black music stars of his day, never reached the heights of some of those he influenced, from Elvis Presley to The Beatles. However, the Fab Four have shared fond memories over the years of encounters with their idol, including one of John Lennon released today by his estate.

John Lennon, who was assassinated 42 years ago this week, once said: “I grew up on blues, country and western music. The sailors came, they brought folk music, of all kinds. I was in college and I was listening to music. It was an easy progression to rhythm and blues through Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, and Little Richard. One thing we always did was say where we get our music from. In fact when we arrived (in the US) in 1964, we had a total of Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Little Richard as musical idols. Chuck Berry is the biggest influence on Earth. Also Bo Diddley and Little Richard. There isn’t a single white band on Earth that doesn’t have their music in them. And that’s all I heard.”

Following Little Richard’s death aged 87 in 2020, Sir Paul McCartney posted a moving tribute with memories of performing with him.

Macca wrote on Instagram at the time: “From Tutti Frutti to Long Tall Sally to Good Golly, Miss Molly to Lucille, Little Richard came screaming into my life as a teenager. A lot of what I do I owe to Little Richard and his style, and he knew it. He would say, ‘I taught Paul everything he knows.’ He had to admit that he was right. In the early days of The Beatles, we played with Richard in Hamburg and got to know him. He would let us hang out in his dressing room and we would witness his pre-show rituals. With his head under a towel over a pan of boiling water, he would suddenly look up at the mirror and say, ‘I can’t help it because I’m so beautiful.’ And he went. A great man with a charming sense of humor and someone who will be missed by the rock and roll community and many more. I thank him for everything he taught me and the kindness he showed in letting me be his friend. Goodbye Richard and a-wop-bop-a-loo-bop – Paul McCartney.”

The 80-year-old continues to listen to Little Richard’s hits to “lift my spirits” to this day.

READ MORE: John Lennon’s last words to Yoko Ono came moments before his death

Sir Ringo shared a snapshot of Little Richard with The Beatles as McCartney did, commenting: “A night to remember little Richard. And the boys peace and love.”

He added in another: “God bless little Richard, one of my all time musical heroes. Peace and love to all his family.”

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