Little Richard - "Keep Knockin'"
In appreciation of Black History Month, all of February will feature Black and Mixed Race artists.
Richard Wayne Penniman, better known as Little Richard, is an American musician, songwriter, singer, actor, and icon.An influential figure in popular music and culture for seven decades, Little Richard's most celebrated work dates from the mid-1950s, when his dynamic music and charismatic showmanship laid the foundation for rock and roll. His music also played a key role in the formation of other popular music genres, including soul and funk. Little Richard influenced numerous singers and musicians across musical genres from rock to hip hop; his music helped shape rhythm and blues for generations to come, and his performances and headline-making thrust his career right into the mix of American popular music.
Little Richard has been honored by many institutions. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as part of its first group of inductees in 1986. He was also inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Recording Academy and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation. Little Richard's "Tutti Frutti" (1955) was included in the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress in 2010, which stated that his "unique vocalizing over the irresistible beat announced a new era in music." In 2015, the National Museum of African American Music honored Little Richard with a Rhapsody & Rhythm Award for his pivotal role in the formation of popular music genres and in helping to shatter the color line on the music charts, changing American culture significantly.
Little Richard's music and performance style had a pivotal effect on the shape of the sound and style of popular music genres of the 20th century. As a rock and roll pioneer, Little Richard embodied its spirit more flamboyantly than any other performer. Little Richard's raspy shouting style gave the genre one of its most identifiable and influential vocal sounds and his fusion of boogie-woogie, New Orleans R&B and gospel music blazed its rhythmic trail.
Combining elements of boogie, gospel, and blues, Little Richard introduced several of rock music's most characteristic musical features, including its loud volume and vocal style emphasizing power, and its distinctive beat and rhythm. He departed from boogie-woogie's shuffle rhythm and introduced a new distinctive rock beat, where the beat division is even at all tempos. He reinforced the new rock rhythm with a two-handed approach, playing patterns with his right hand, with the rhythm typically popping out in the piano's high register. His new rhythm, which he introduced with "Tutti Frutti" (1955), became the basis for the standard rock beat, which was later consolidated by Chuck Berry. "Lucille" (1957) foreshadowed the rhythmic feel of 1960s classic rock in several ways, including its heavy bassline, slower tempo, strong rock beat played by the entire band, and verse–chorus form similar to blues.
Always struggling with his own inner demons, Little Richard, proved to the world once again that skin color and sexual orientation have nothing to do with star power. He battled homophobia and racism both internally and externally, and through that passionate rollercoaster of a journey, he taught us just how layered a human soul can be.
So today, with eyes wide shut, I choose Little Richard's "Keep Knockin'" as my, break open, lift off, wooooooooo, song for a, maybe this time, why not, let your guard down little by little, Thursday.