Monday, May 11, 2020

Little Richard

I was ten years old when, in 1955, Little Richard's recording of "Tutti Frutti" hit the scene.  I was living in Virginia Beach, Virginia.  The schools were still segregated.  As was much of everything else.

I was trying to describe to my daughter what the music was like before Little Richard and the other rock 'n' roll pioneers saved us all.  The only thing I could come up with was that it was like a lake of tapioca.  America tried to keep it that way.  Pat Boone covered "Tutti Fritti."  This of course was a desperate effort to make this clearly black music white.  For most of us, it didn't work.  Even at ten years old, I knew Pat Boone didn't give me anything I wanted.  Listen to him and see for yourself.  He has the unique ability to take everything important out of a song and leave you with absolutely nothing.

Little Richard gave us everything.  He came out of nowhere!  Like a meteorite! It's hard to describe what effect he had on me and on thousands of kids like me.  His singing bypassed all roadblocks and leapt inside you.  It made you want to dance.  It made you want to scream.  How could you keep still?  You couldn't!  And it was LOUD.  He sang the hell out of those songs, "Long Tall Sally," "The Girl Can't Help It," "Good Golly, Miss Molly," "Lucille," and, my all-time favorite, "Slippin' and Sliddin'."  Then we got to see him on TV!  He's one of those great performers who when you saw him you got double your pleasure.  He was wild!  He was insane!  Dig his version of "Tutti Frutti."  (There's a brief glance of Bill Haley in the video.)  Even subdued for American TV, you can feel it.

Did I understand "Tutti Frutti?"  No!  YES!  I understood what was important to understand.  That was that the song was rockin' and rollin' and that I loved hearing it. That suddenly being ten years old was fantastic.  Give me more!  All I'll I had to do was buy his record.  I could play it again and again and feel soooooo good.  

Thank you, Little Richard.  For everything.

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