LITTLE RICHARD / “Lil Richard Mixtape”
R&B had an outside baby and they called her Rock and Roll. She was first seen cavorting at a drunken frat party on some southern campus where most of the colored were the hired help, ya know, grounds keepers, culinary workers (i.e. cooks & dishwashers), maids, waiters, butlers and such. Except when these sons of the South wanted to have a roaring good time, they would hire a colored band and the band was implored to play that funky stuff but play it loud, hard and fast. The whole scene was popularized by the Blues Brothers and Animal House movies. James Meredith would have gotten into Ole Miss a whole lot faster if he could have played guitar like Chuck Berry or whooped it up like this week’s classic feature, Little Richard. Ooh, my Lord! Macon, Georgia born (December 5, 1932) Reverend Richard Wayne Penniman, is the first, the last, and the always of the pretty-boy, cross-over artists. Meet Michael Jackson’s musical grandfather and Prince’s long lost great-uncle. Can it be that Little Richard is going to outlive his progeny? Yeah, I’m clowning but yall know what I’m saying. I’m just giving Little Richard his just due, which he’s going to take anyway. Anytime he be somewhere Little Richard let’s people know who started Rock and Roll, and it sure wasn’t Elvis Presley. On the other hand, again to give credit where credit is due, there was a whole crew who came out of the rockabilly scene that can lay a partial claim for establishing Rock and Roll as a genre: Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bill Haley and the Comets, Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison. Those of us who are under fifty years old probably can not fully understand the virulence and violent oppression that characterized 20th century American racism. Back in the fifties, the music scene was as segregated as the church scene, which meant people were totally separate. Children have a way of becoming adults, leaving home and establishing themselves, which is precisely what Rock and Roll did. And just as many of us reject our parents, Rock and Roll did the same. Part of Little Richard’s vehement self-promotion is precisely because someone else wore the king’s crown, a crown Little Richard swore was rightfully his. Another reason Little Richard is so adamant about his place in history is because in the early years of his career he had to literally challenge his own songs on the charts when white artists such as Pat Boone (yes, Pat Boone!) covered both “Tutti Frutti” and “Long Tall Sally,” and Bill Haley covered “Rip It Up.” In one of the above cases, the cover version out sold Little Richard’s original. You can imagine how that made Little Richard feel. The seriousness of the social context and the economic challenges notwithstanding, Little Richard maintained his out-sized persona. He is what we used to call a “stone fool,” meaning that man was talented, crazy and guaranteed to entertain at the highest level. His manic stage antics, the way he pounded a piano with abandon (although, for sure, he was always musical), and don’t get started on his sartorial flamboyance and the make-up, hair-dos, mascara, lipstick and who knows what all. As a friend of mine once said about Prince, the big boys are confused but the little girls understand. Women threw their panties at Little Richard. Literally. Plus, Little Richard was the proving ground, the place where musicians went to find themselves. It is no accident that both James Brown and Jimi Hendrix are alums of Little Richard bands. Don’t play my man short, there’s a whole more there than good looks and a big mouth. Plus, he reinvented himself three or four times to keep his presence alive in the public consciousness. In 1955 he had his first major hit, “Tutti Frutti,” which was followed by a long string of instant hits, most of which were recorded in New Orleans working with a core of New Orleans musicians. Those hits included “Slippin’ and Slidin’,” “Long Tall Sally,” “Good Golly Miss Molly,” “Keep A Knocking,” and “The Girl Can’t Help It,” which was the title song for the 1956 movie starring Jayne Mansfield. In 1957 Richard did a Saul/Paul conversion, literally threw a diamond ring in the ocean, went to bible school and became a Seven Day Adventist minister. In 1964 shortly after The Beatles invasion (who were major fans of Little Richard and had adopted some of his vocal mannerisms), Little Richard re-emerged on the secular scene as one of the original Rock and Roll founders. Later in the seventies and eighties he returned again and again, working the talk show circuit and later on, emerging as a favorite on game shows and, wonders of wonders, a frequent guest on children’s TV. No doubt the man is the prototype for the Energizer Bunny. So, here we have a short mixtape with a clutch of Little Richard songs, including a couple of ringers most young people have never heard. Like Little Richard singing “Hound Dog,” not in the manner of Big Mama Thornton but rather Little Richard singing like Elvis Presley. Enjoy. —Kalamu ya Salaam Little Richard Mixtape Playlist All of the tracks are from The Very Best of Little Richard except "Goin' Home Tomorrow" from Golden Legends: Live, "California (I'm Comin)" from Southern Child, and "Freedom Blues" from The Rill Thing. 01 "Tutti Frutti" 02 "Rip It Up" 03 "Good Golly, Miss Molly" 04 "Long Tall Sally" 05 "Slippin' And Slidin' (Peepin' And Hidin')" 06 "Goin' Home Tomorrow" 07 "Keep A-Knockin' " 08 "The Girl Can't Help It" 09 "Send Me Some Lovin' " 10 "Ready Teddy" 11 "Hound Dog (Rehearsal Take)" 12 "By The Light Of The Silvery Moon" 13 "Ooh! My Soul" 14 "California (I'm Comin')" 15 "Freedom Blues"
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