The Big Life of Little Richard

The Big Life of Little Richard

by Mark Ribowsky
The Big Life of Little Richard

The Big Life of Little Richard

by Mark Ribowsky


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The first major biography of Little Richard, a rollicking, nuanced celebration of the late singer/songwriter’s life and his role in the history of American music—gospel, soul, rock, and more

“Tutti Frutti” • “Rip It Up” • “Good Golly Miss Molly” • “Lucille” • “Long Tall Sally” • “You Keep A-Knockin’”

Little Richard blazed the trail for generations of musicians—The Beatles, James Brown, the Everly Brothers, Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones, Elton John, Prince . . . the list seems endless. He was “The Originator,” “The Innovator,” and the self-anointed “King and Queen of Rock ’n’ Roll.” When he died on May 9, 2020, The Big Life of Little Richard—a nearly-completed book—was immediately updated to cover the international response to his death. It is the first major biography of Macon, Georgia’s Richard Wayne Penniman, who was, until his passing, the last rock god standing.

Mark Ribowsky, acclaimed biographer of musical icons—the Supremes, the Temptations, Stevie Wonder, Otis Redding—takes readers through venues, gigs, and studios, conveying the sweaty energy of music sessions limited to a few tracks on an Ampex tape machine and vocals sung along with a live band. He explores Little Richard’s musicianship; his family life; his uphill battle against racism; his interactions with famous contemporaries and the media; and his lifelong inner conflict between his religion and his sexuality.

The Big Life of Little Richard not only explores a legendary stage persona, but also a complex life under the makeup and pomade, the neon-lit duds and piano pyrotechnics, along with a full-body dive into the waters of sexual fluidity.

By 2020, eighty-seven-year-old Little Richard’s electrifying smile was still intact, as were his bona fides as rock’s kingly architect: the ’50s defined his reign, and he extended elder statesmanship ever since. His biggest smash, “Tutti Frutti,” is one of history’s most covered songs—a staple of the pre-Invasion Beatles—and Elvis pivoted from country to blues rock after Little Richard made R&B’s sexual overtones a fundament of the new musical order. Even Hendrix, the greatest instrumentalist in rock history, toured with him before launching a meteoric solo career.

Whenever someone pushes the music and culture of rock to its outer borders, one should turn to Little Richard for assurance that anything is possible.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781635767223
Publisher: Diversion Books
Publication date: 08/25/2020
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 1,083,941
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Mark Ribowsky is the New York Times acclaimed author of The Supremes: A Saga of Motown Dreams, Success, and Betrayal; He's a Rebel: Phil Spector—Rock and Roll's Legendary Producer; Don't Look Back: Stachel Paige in the Shadows of Baseball; and Signed, Sealed, Delivered: The Soulful Journey of Stevie Wonder. He has written for SPORT magazine and Inside Sports, TV Guide, Playboy, and Penthouse. Ribowsky has appeared on Dateline NBC, Primetime Live (ABC), Connie Chung, Geraldo Rivera, The Tavis Smiley Show, and many other network and cable TV shows. He lives in Boca Raton, Florida.

Table of Contents

Prologue xi

1 Prettiest Thing in the Kitchen 1

2 Ain't Nothin' Happening 15

3 Right Rhythmic Rock and Roll Music 35

4 Tutti Frutti 47

5 Whole Lot of Rhythm Goin' 'Round 63

6 A Higher Calling 81

7 I'm Quittin' Show Business 97

8 In and Out of the Shadows 111

9 Revival 127

10 Do Whatever You Feel 147

11 Snatched from the Burning 165

Epilogue 199

Bibliography 205

Index 209

About the Author 223

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