Friday, July 6, 2007

No. 50: Here's Little Richard

Band: Little Richard
Album: Here's Little Richard
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: The gestation of rock and roll would not be complete without Little Richard. The showmanship and energy that Little Richard put into his records was part of what popularized the form.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: Because of the nature of early rock and roll careers (mostly releasing singles), these collections tend to be rated lower than they should be. Little Richard has kept his name in the limelight and is hugely important.
Best song: How do you argue with the famous opener "Tutti Frutti?" "Long, Tall Sally" is pretty amazing, too.
Worst song: They're all pretty great.
Is it awesome?: Absolutely.

While it's not my favorite music, early rock and roll is just tons of fun. The Chuck Berry records are enjoyable, but Little Richard's records just brim with excitement and energy. His voice just screams, the piano rolls and the backing band is furious, as compared to his contemporaries.

It's easy to forget how great this music is, being that Little Richard has become a total goof ball. He's constantly wearing eyeliner and he's now famous for the Pat Boone nonsense (not to mention doing stupid tv ads for car insurance) as he is for his music. To think, on some level, that a black musician (playing black music, by the way) couldn't be marketed in the '50s is pretty depressing. A lot of people liken Eminem's popularity to the Boone/Little Richard thing. While the inherent racism works, but we've come a long way since then. Eminem does do his own music and is not a record company stooge in the same way that Boone was. Emimen was discovered by Dr. Dre and produced by him; Dre is a man who doesn't need the help by having a black artist.

Boone, who has since become a picture of all that's wrong with America, was a stooge. The record producers knew that the Little Richard songs were fantastic; They just weren't sure that they could market a black artist with those songs.

Nevertheless, Little Richard's delivery is the linchpin of the whole thing. His woo-ing and ahh-ing was overtly sexual and has been the template for rock music for years.

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