Little Richard’s Final Echo

A wop bop aloo mob a lop bam boom. It’s 1956, Little Richard tosses around gibberish to kill boredom as he washes dishes at the Greyhound bus station. If he only knew how those wordless lyrics would change the history of rock n’ roll, he might have banged some pots and pans together with his signature flamboyancy to get the entire bus station involved. The icon died May 9th at age 87.

Little Richard wasn’t one to “tickle the ivories.” Instead, he built a new sound from a skillful piano pounding and an echoing yawp that refused to be ignored. The punch of his lyrics would trip your tongue while spinning you into a fit of ecstasy.

His wild demeanor oozed timeless fun and broke down racial barriers in segregated America like his playing broke piano strings. His concerts would often result in black and white youths dancing together, which at the time was a very risky business. His suggestive lyrics made people go wild even though they didn’t know what some of them meant. But, Little Richard just kept playing in a way that said, “who cares just dance.”

Little Richard, 1971
Ralph Morse The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

His music captured the apex of excitement and his style let it linger in the air. He inspired the greats like Prince, The Beatles, and Elton John who tried to match his unparalleled energy. He was also the first rock and roller bombarded with women’s underwear during a performance—which is pretty badass.

Little Richard showed us how to break the rules and allowed us to unleash a certain type of primal crazy. Rock n’ roll wouldn’t be the same without him.

So, here’s to broken piano strings, screaming into microphones and swirling gibberish with intention. Let’s Rip it Up one last time for Little Richard.

Julia Colasanti

A music-obsessed journalist, hungry to dive in on any and all genres.

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