Home > Uncategorized > Quarantine Diaries – Day 67 (missing Little Richard)

Quarantine Diaries – Day 67 (missing Little Richard)

It’s been all-corona all the time.

It sucks all the air out of the room. Our minds have been misplaced.

There was a musical earthquake 2 weeks ago and it was barely mentioned.

richardLittle Richard died.

I heard about it. The news reached me. But then it was gone….like a passing shower. It never registered somehow.

What’s happening to us?

Elvis fawned over him. Dylan wanted to be him. Jagger, McCartney……they all watched him from the wings and took notes. Nobody had ever sounded like this before. Nobody had ever looked like this before. Little Richard onstage was a musical blitzkrieg, with his baggy suits and his brazen pompadour, pounding on a black baby grand like it had stole something from him. Whopping and hollering in a voice that sounded like he’d been sucking on helium. He never stopped. Everything was 100 miles per hour….supercharged….over-heated. Girls went crazy. Boys went crazy. It was all the same to Richard, who called himself both the king and queen of Rock and Roll. His mouth never stopped. And when he ran out of words, rather than the sin of silence, he’d make up his own.

Awopbopaloobop alopbamboom

That was the line in the sand. Once that was uttered…..the world changed. The man was singing in tongues, but the kids knew what he meant. The men don’t know, but the girl understands.

“Wherever you are, I’ve been there”, he said. “Wherever you’re going, I’ve gone.”

Consider this.

‘Tutti Frutti’, ‘Long Tall Sally’, ‘Good Golly Miss Molly’, ‘Lucille’, ‘Jenny Jenny’,’The Girl Can’t Help It’, ‘Rip it Up’,’Slippin and Slidin’,’Keep a Knockin’….the very foundation of rock and roll……all of these were recorded between 1955 and 1957. Two years. He largely invented rock and roll, and at the same time perfected it. Because you can argue that it’s been equaled since, but nobody in their right mind can say it’s ever been done better. And he knew it. When Pat Boone’s cleaned up white-as-milk version of ‘Tutti Frutti’ climbed higher in the charts than the original, Richard wanted to find him and kick the shit out of him. Such abominations would never stand. Listening to Pat Boone sing Little Richard, to this day, can cause global Pandemics.

Change my mind.

And then he was gone. Well, not gone. But God got involved…..and pretty soon Richard was convinced he was headed to hell for playing the Devil’s music. So he took up the Lord’s business. Started making gospel music.

But ever few years he’d get the itch again (or run out of cash), and he’d be back to falling to the ground after playing “Lucille”, and his band would theatrically ask if there was a doctor in the house, pausing just long enough for the crowed to get nervous….only to have Richard rise from the dead and kick off”Tutti Frutti”. Like some sort of mad banshee. James Brown and Hendrix and Michael Jackson and Prince didn’t fall out of the sky. And neither did David Byrne’s oversized suit. The were birthed by Richard. (If he had a peer, it was Chuck Berry.)

Back and forth he went…..from playing for $10k a night to selling bibles door to door. From embracing his gayness to rejecting it. Constantly fighting a losing battle with himself, because at the end he was a manic, unrepentant gay rock and roller, the same man who roared “Awopbopaloobop alopbamboom” all those years ago and made white and black kids colorblind, 180 seconds at a time. He was a pioneer. His blackness, his gayness, his outrageous personality. If he was reincarnated he’d stop traffic even now.

He demanded payment up front for all his shows. In cash. Or he didn’t play. Once a frantic casino owner, worried over an impatient crowd, paid him in a wheelbarrow filled with small bills and rolled quarters. Richard been cheated before. It wasn’t gonna happen again.

Two of the greatest pieces of white rock and roll I’ve ever heard are The Beatles singing (maybe that’s not the right word) “Long Tall Sally” (McCartney remembers Richard sitting him down at a piano in Hamburg and teaching him that “wooooo”) and the Band’s ferocious live version of “Slippin and Slidin’.

Two of the best bands in the world. You’d better be if you were gonna pull that off.

“Honey, I’m the man that started it all. The Emancipator of Soul and the King of Rock & Roll, from Macon, Georgia. I want you to know that I’m here to be offered tonight in the fullness. That the beauty is still on duty. Let it all hang out with the beautiful Little Richard from down in Macon, Georgia. I want you all to know that I am the Georgia Peach. Let all the womenfolk say, Whooooo! Let all the men say, Ugh! Oooh, my soul….Shut up! I am the star. And don’t you ever forget it.”

Just a little lonelier down here now is all.

In a bit..

–tf

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