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“Long Tall Sally”

Posted by purplemary54 on December 6, 2012

Yesterday’s news of DAve Brubeck’s death overshadowed another musical milestone:  Little Richard turned 80.

It’s been a long time since Rock & Roll was young.  There was a brashness and bravery in the early songs.  They were sexy and bawdy without being crass.  They were fearless.  And nobody in rock music personified this more than Little Richard.

I love Little Richard.  He’s one of my favorite early rockers, but these days, he’s kind of forgotten.  But he was so wild!  Like Jerry Lee Lewis, you knew that Richard was about two steps from complete anarchy.  It was like watching someone teeter at the edge of a steep cliff, arms flailing to keep balanced, grinning like a madman the whole time at the risk.  He was an amazing, exciting, dynamic performer.  Richard always had an outrageous style and personality, and one of the most distinctive voices in rock.

At the height of his fame, Richard Penniman dropped out of Rock & Roll to become an Evangelical minister.  He eventually returned to music, but never achieved the success of his early years again.  As he’s aged, Little Richard has become both an icon and a caricature of himself.  I still adore him, and love to hear him interviewed about music, but it’s hard sometimes to watch him.  He looks artificial, like a wax statue of his younger self.  I know part of that is living up to an image people expect from him,  but I think it also might be partly because he wants to recapture some of that glorious magic of the 1950s.  When everyone was a teenager, and the only limits on the music were the ones they imposed themselves.  Before the business took over.  When everything was still dangerous.

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