Little Richard’s Ugly Exploitation by the Music Industry Is Laid Bare – Rolling Stone

of Columbus Black prominence by white opportunists has long been prevalent in popular culture. Nothing is more trendy than a musical realm where everything from Elvis’ Hip Shake to Miley’s Twerk has been misattributed. For decades, black music has been ghettoized and relegated to the shadows. It didn’t matter that they were pioneers of emerging sounds like rock’n’roll and pop. Radio stations refused to give airtime to black artists, but even in the early days of MTV they were surprisingly white. Instead, Caucasian mimicry rose to the top of the charts. Before getting Elvis inked, Sun Records boss Sam Phillips said, “If you can find a white person with a black sound and a black feeling, you can make a billion dollars.” It is reported.

Before Elvis, of course, there was Little Richard. With his frenetic, uptempo style, raucous live performances, and rousing vocals, the Macon, Georgia pride has paved the way for Rock’n’Roll. “The Architect of Rock and Roll” never really got the recognition it deserved. He was barred from music royalties and barred from the Grammy Awards. He, like many of his contemporaries, has not received the Hollywood biographical treatment. But a new documentary hopes to set the record straight. Little Richard: I am everything, which had its world premiere at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival before the release of HBO Max later this year, will see the music maestro’s early days in Macon and the ill will of pastors and bootleggers. Follows his journey as a (and physically malformed) gay son. “Tutti Frutti” is a breakthrough and complicated later life as an evangelical preacher who renounced homosexuality.

CNN and Rolling Stone Films (yes, this rolling stone) co-produced and directed by Lisa Cortez, Little Richard: I am everything Featuring many talking heads singing the praises of pioneering musicians, from Paul McCartney to Mick Jagger.

It’s amazing how Little Richard, a gay black man in the 1950s, was able to reach the heights he achieved. I couldn’t stop him. Not branded a “wimp” or a “faggot” by his hometown. Wasn’t kicked out of the house by his teenage father because of his sexuality. And it’s not like the police beat him to blackjack for “sang n***** music to white kids.” He found refuge in his underground club at the time and performed drag as “Princess Lavonne”. And his first big hit, “Tutti Frutti,” was supposed to be an anal sex extravaganza (original lyric: “Tutti Frutti, nice ass / It’s okay if it’s tight…”).

“He was gay, but I didn’t know it at the time. I knew something was different. He became part of my identity,” said the filmmaker. John Waters says “And Little Richard’s mustache is a twisted homage to him that he’s worn for over 50 years to this day.”

The most fascinating and infuriating part of the document covers the exploitation of Little Richard by white artists and the music industry at large. to persuade Pat Boone and Elvis to release a cover version. Both charted higher than Little Richard. To keep the Vultures from sniffing out, Little Richard made his next hit, “Long Tall Sally,” so quickly that Boone couldn’t cover it effectively.

“I had just arrived on set and I was so disgusted because all the white girls were screaming at me and the system didn’t like it,” lamented Little Richard. I shouldn’t have been a hero to their children.”

He later said of the Elvis craze: Elvis had never written a song in his life! he was white i was black

Elvis wasn’t the only popular white artist to heavily borrow or outright steal from Little Richard. The Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein, introduced the band to Little Richard in their early days before writing songs together. And it was Little Richard who first took the Beatles to the Star Club in Hamburg, Germany. It was the very place where the group honed its craft and transformed itself into a top-notch rock and roll act.

of Little Richard: I am everythingthere’s an old clip of Paul McCartney, the Beatles’ de facto leader, and watching Little Richard play is like going to rock school, and their early songs call themselves ‘Bronze’. I did my best to impersonate a man. Liberace.”

“All the numbers I was screaming were about him,” McCartney said.

One of The Rolling Stones’ first tours was in 1963 for Little Richard. The lead in the film, his singer Mick his Jaguar, was inspired by witnessing his infectious live act.

“We were basically a cover band. explains. “Looking at Richard, I thought you didn’t have to stand there! I’ll make you get up from your seat while you call or answer something.30 dates.I’ve met Little Richard 30 times!”

Nile Rodgers remembers David Bowie approaching him before recording Let’s danceand clutching a Little Richard album, saying he wanted to do something similar, Rodgers was a little conflicted.

Record companies were even worse. Little Richard said that at the height of his fame, he earned half a cent per record sold. Then, after Little Richard left Specialty Records after 18 months on a three-year contract (partly due to his mistreatment), the label followed him and eventually all his future royalties. abandoned. In other words, Little Richard has not received a penny for his singing and recordings since.

“I looked around, but there was no money,” said Little Richard. “That record company didn’t pay me anything. Nobody paid me a dime. All those hits.”

Little Richard from “Little Richard: I Am Everything”.

sundance film festival

Little Richard’s desperate need for money to care for his mother and sisters led him to picket down Hollywood Boulevard over his lost wages.

“I haven’t seen the famous Little Richard trying to get the famous money he made all those years ago,” he said. I saw it, but I was still in the valley, and it bothered me.”

His frustration came to a head at the 1988 Grammy Awards. When the New York Dolls’ David Johansen won Best New Artist, the legendary musician pointed to Johansen’s pompadour hairstyle and copied how he wore it during his ’50s heyday. He said: They take everything I get—they take it from me.


“I never received anything,” he continued. “It’s not like they didn’t give me a Grammy and I’ve been singing for years. I’m the architect of rock’n’roll and they gave me nothing. And I’m the founder. am!

Little Richard passed away at the age of 87 in 2020 from complications of bone cancer. He will never truly receive the trust and respect he owes, Little Richard: I am everything Shows a step in the right direction.

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