100 Greatest Singers
December 5th, 1932
Key Tracks "Tutti-Frutti," "Good Golly Miss Molly," "Long Tall Sally"
Influenced James Brown, Prince, Paul McCartney
"When I heard ['Long Tall Sally'], it was so great I couldn't speak," said John Lennon. "I didn't want to leave Elvis, but this was so much better." Richard Penniman grew up wailing gospel in church in Macon, Georgia, and he carried his feverish foundation with him into rock & roll: On songs like "Lucille" and "Tutti-Frutti," he sounded like a preacher wrestling the devil to the ground. When he belted, "I'm gonna rip it up/I'm gonna shake it up" in 1956, Richard wasn't just singing about the weekend — his falsetto shrieks were demolishing the rules of pop singing. It was a voice that leapt with a fury out of transistor radios, leaving scorch marks on an entire generation of singers and musicians. Said Jimi Hendrix, who played in Richard's backing band, "I want to do with my guitar what Little Richard does with his voice."