Tributes have been flooding in for Little Richard after it was announced the rock’n’roll icon had passed away, aged 87.
No tribute has been more apt than that posted by Roots drummer Questlove. “[Little Richard was the] King Of Rock And Roll. Zero Questions,” he wrote on Instagram. “Journalists Do Your Job. Not ARCHITECT not PIONEER. not HITMAKER. This man was literally THE BLUEPRINT of all the world took from. LITTLE RICHARD is THE TRUE KING. LONG LIVE THE KING.”
Looking back on the songs that filled Richard’s first two records – the only ones he made before disavowing secular music to become a Christian preacher – it’s hard to disagree with Questlove’s summation. Here are ten rock’n’roll staples, all of which were first recorded by Richard.
1. ‘Tutti Frutti’ (1955):
Released as a single in late 1955 and later included on 1957’s Here’s Little Richard, ‘Tutti Frutti’ was written by Richard and Dorothy LaBostrie. It’s the archetypal Little Richard song, rooted in the I-IV-V chord progression that buttressed the majority of his classic songs. From the opening vocal belch – “awopbopaloobop alopbamboom” – onwards, ‘Tutti Frutti’ showed Little Richard was one of a kind.
2. ‘Long Tall Sally’ (1956):
‘Long Tall Sally’ was released as a single in early 1956 and later included on Here’s Little Richard. Co-written by Richard, Robert Blackwell and Enotris Johnson, ‘Long Tall Sally’ has been covered by Elvis Presley and The Beatles. The Beatles also offered their own approximation in the form of ‘I’m Down’.
3. ‘Slippin’ and Slidin’ (Peepin’ and Hidin’)’ (1956):
The B-side to ‘Long Tall Sally’ was written by Richard with Eddie Bo, Al Collins and James Smith. Slippin’ and Slidin’ capped off side one of Here’s Little Richard and the song’s piano-led rock’n’roll arrangement presaged the work of rockabilly progenitor Jerry Lee Lewis.
4. ‘Rip It Up’ (1956):
‘Rip It Up’ was released as a single in June 1956 and included on Here’s Little Richard the following year. It was one of several Little Richard hits penned by the songwriting duo of Robert Blackwell and John Marascalco. ‘Rip It Up’ was later recorded by such eminent artists as Bill Haley & His Comets, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley and The Living End.
5. ‘Ready Teddy’ (1956):
‘Ready Teddy’ was also released as a single in June 1956 and included on Here’s Little Richard the following year – yes, Here’s Little Richard consists of front-to-back hits. ‘Ready Teddy’ was another Blackwell/Marascalco composition and gained further popularity courtesy of Buddy Holly’s version in 1958.
6. ‘She’s Got It’ (1956):
‘She’s Got It’ was released as a single in October 1956 and appears as the final tack on Here’s Little Richard. The hook – “She’s got it, Ooh baby, she’s got it” – was later interpolated in Banarama’s ‘Venus’.
7. ‘Jenny, Jenny’ (1957):
The fifth and final single lifted from Here’s Little Richard was written by Richard and Enotris Johnson and features the dual saxophones of Lee Allen and Alvin Tyler. ‘Jenny, Jenny’ is a prime demonstration of Richard’s ability to move from a gruff scream to an eccentric shriek.
8. ‘The Girl Can’t Help It’ (1956):
‘The Girl Can’t Help It’ is the title song to the film of the same name. It was released alongside the film in December 1956 and would later appear on Richard’s self-titled second album in 1958. It was written by ‘Route 66’ writer Bobby Troup and has been recorded by everyone from The Animals to Led Zeppelin and sampled in Fergie’s 2007 single ‘Clumsy’.
9. ‘Lucille’ (1957):
The brassed-up ‘Lucille’ was released as a single in 1957 and featured on Little Richard. It’s since been covered by the likes of The Beatles and Waylon Jennings, though it’s not to be confused with the songs by B.B. King and Kenny Rogers that have the same name.
10. ‘Good Golly, Miss Molly’ (1958):
Released as a single in January 1958, ‘Good Golly, Miss Molly’ is another Blackwell/Marascalco co-write that ensured Little Richard was as much of a hit-fest as its predecessor. Richard’s vocal power on the track remains gobsmacking to this day.