Rip It Up
In his high school yearbook, Bob Dylan said his ambition was "to join Little Richard." Jimi Hendrix was more specific: "I want to do with my guitar what Little Richard does with his voice." The Beatles were proud to be his opening act. Here, to celebrate Little Richard's 85th birthday, are 20 quotes from the flamboyant and influential rock and roll pioneer.
On His Place in History
"I am the innovator. I am the originator. I am the emancipator. I am the architect of rock 'n' roll!"
On the Music He Grew Up With
"I came from a family where my people didn't like rhythm and blues. Bing Crosby, 'Pennies From Heaven,' Ella Fitzgerald was all I heard. And I knew there was something that could be louder than that, but I didn't know where to find it. And I found it was me."
On How He Came to Write "Tutti Frutti"
"I was [washing dishes] at the Greyhound bus station in Macon, Georgia, oh my Lord, back in 1955. ... I couldn't talk back to my boss man. He would bring all these pots back for me to wash, and one day I said ... 'A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop-a-wop-bam-boom...' And so I wrote 'Tutti Frutti' in the kitchen, I wrote 'Good Golly Miss Molly' in the kitchen, I wrote 'Long Tall Sally' in that kitchen."
On the Reason He's Here on Earth
"I'm here to sing."
On Another Reason
"I also like the banging piano—that old good-time piano."
On Having Faith
"I think people who don't believe in God are crazy. How can you say there is no God when you hear the birds singing these beautiful songs you didn't make?"
On Elvis Presley and Himself
"Elvis may be the King of Rock and Roll, but I am the Queen."
On a Sound That Inspired Him
"Black people lived right by the railroad tracks, and the train would shake their houses at night. I would hear it as a boy, and I thought, I'm gonna make a song that sounds like that."
On the Beatles
"I gave them their first tour before they made a record. I carried them to Hamburg, Germany, to the Star Club, I was the star of the show, and by the way, they used to order a lot of steaks and I had to pay for them because they didn't have the money."
On Musical Genres
"Played up-tempo, you call it rock 'n' roll. At a regular tempo, you call it rhythm and blues."
On His Approach to Life
"I did what I felt, and I felt what I did, at all costs."
"When I went on the stage to do a show, I would put on makeup because I felt that it enhanced my act; it drew attention to what I was doing."
On Winging It
"I never accepted the idea that I had to be guided by some pattern or blueprint."
On His Positive Message
"I try to be a guide for people, to make their darkness bright and to make the pathway light, and never to condemn or control or criticize."
On the Music Business
"I was getting a half a cent a record, which was very low. But I never got the two halves to put together to make a penny. There's been 25 years that I haven't received a dime."
"It's hard to have a friend when your name's a household word."
"Gay people are the sweetest, kindest, most artistic, warmest and most thoughtful people in the world. And since the beginning of time, all they've ever been is kicked."
"I always wanted to be famous. You know, when the teacher would say, 'Ashley, what you wanna be?' she would say a school teacher. 'John, what you wanna be?' He would say a mortician. 'Richard, what you wanna be?' I would say a movie star."
On His Toes
"In Vegas, I played the piano on every number. I stand and play with my toes, you should see me with my toes, you've never seen toes like Little Richard's. The livin' toe, yes, Lord. Shut up."
On His Peers
"I would hear Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Ruth Brown, Faye Adams, the Clovers, the Drifters, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, John Lee Hooker, Elmore James, and I admired them. But I always had my little thing I wanted to let the world hear, you know."
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