Little Richard's Wife, Life, And 10 Interesting Facts About Rock Music's Founding Father

The originator and rock and roll died at 87.

Richard Wayne Penniman, famously known as Little Richard, has died at 87. According to The New York Times, he passed away from cancer. 

The godfather of rock was known for songs like “Tutti Frutti,” “Good Golly Miss Molly” and “Long Tall Sally,” however, he was also known for a fascinating career and personal life. 

Here are ten interesting, lesser-known and sometimes forgotten facts about the music legend.

RELATED: Little Richard Talks About Suffered Heart Attack In 2013

  1. He Was Married For Two Years

    Little Richard identified as gay, bisexual and even “omnisexual.” However, he was married for a brief time to a woman. On July 11, 1959, he married Ernestine Harvin, who was a  secretary from Washington, D.C. They divorced by 1961, according to CNN.


  2. He Had An Adopted Son

    During his marriage to Ernestine, the couple adopted one son, Danny Jones Penniman. Little Richard and Danny Jones remained close over the years.  

  3. His Father Was Abusive

    Little Richard shared that he suffered tremendous abuse by his father because of his sexuality. By 15 years old, he was kicked out of his home. 

    On an 1985 episode of The South Bank Show, Little Richard said, "My daddy put me out of the house. He said he wanted seven boys, and I had spoiled it, because I was gay."

  4. “Tutti Frutti” Was About Booty

    While “Tutti Frutti” is considered a wholesome song, the actual lyrics were about booty. 

    According to Deliberate Speed: The Origins of a Cultural Style in the American 1950s, the original lyrics were, “Tutti Frutti, good booty / If it don't fit, don't force it / You can grease it, make it easy.” 

    To be more palatable to the masses, the lyrics were reportedly changed to, “Tutti Frutti / aw rooty.”

    See Little Richard explain below:

  5. James Brown Was Influenced By Him

    Little Richard had a huge influence on James Brown. Both from Macon, Georgia, Richard would end up giving Brown a huge break introducing him to his manager, Clint Brantley. Soon after, Brown would have  his first hit with “Please, Please, Please” in 1956.

    See their friendship depicted in the 2014 James Brown biopic Get On Up.

  6. He Was Arrested In 1962

    In 1962, Little Richard was arrested “for a sexual encounter with a man in a bus station restroom,” according to NBC News. These were the times where gay men were often targeted for arrests by homphobic law enforcement. Bars and locations were queer men frequented were preyed upon. Little Richard doesn’t appear to have spoken publicly about the arrest. 

  7. He Struggled With Addiction

    Little Richard struggled with drug addiction for many years. In 1981, he told Fred Saxon, “I used to take so much cocaine, my nose was big enough to park diesel trucks in.”

  8. He Performed At President Bill Clinton's Inaugural Gala

    On January 19, 1993, Little Riched Performed "Good Golly Miss Molly" at President Bill Clinton's inaugural gala. 

    See the epic performance below with the legendary Chuck Berry:

  9. He Had An Epic Monologue About Race In ‘Down In and Out in Beverly Hills’

    Down In and Out in Beverly Hills was a box office hit in 1986. Arguably,the best scene was Little Richard’s cameo about being a Black man living in Beverly Hills. 

    See below:

  10. He Was One Of The Greatest Singers Of All Time

    In November of 2008, Rolling Stone placed Little Richard at number 12 on their list of the 100 greatest singers

    See him belt out those powerhouse vocals in 1966:

Latest News

Subscribe for BET Updates

Provide your email address to receive our newsletter.

Select the types of notification you would like to receive from us. Please note, you must choose at least one.

By clicking subscribe, I consent to receiving newsletters and other marketing emails. Newsletters are subject to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. Users can unsubscribe at any time.