Little Richard: The Life of a Legend and How He Died

Little Richard death
Little Richard performing at the University of Texas Forty Acres Festival in 2007. Photo by Anna Blecker.

While many people associate Elvis Presley with the invention of rock n roll, the genre wouldn’t be anything near what it is today without the flamboyant performances of Little Richard during the 1950s.

Known for his unique sound, which later influenced the Beatles, the world simply wouldn’t be the same without this musician. Read on to learn more about the life and death of Little Richard.

Who is Little Richard?

Little Richard is a world-famous rock n roll musician known for his songs “Tutti Frutti” and “Long Tall Sally,” which were released in the 1950s. He claimed that he got most of his inspiration for his songs from his religious upbringing.

Little Richard was born Richard Wayne Penniman on December 5th, 1932, in the state of Georgia. Little Richard’s parents were Leva Mar and Charles Penniman, but his father often went by the nickname “Bud.” Richard was the third of their 12 children.

Because he was so small and skinny, Richard began being called Lil Richard by his friends and family throughout his childhood. As he matured, the name stuck.

At the age of 17, Richard began having problems, namely that he no longer got along with his father due to his sexuality. As a result, he left home and joined Hudson’s Medicine Show in 1949 as a singer, and his music career officially had begun.

little richard concernt
Little Richard in Concert, date taken unknown. Photo by Robbie Drexhage.

How Tall Was Little Richard?

Are you wondering about Little Richard’s height? Well, this star was the average height for a male standing at 5’9” or 1.77 meters tall.

When Did Little Richard Die?

Little Richard died on May 9th, 2020, at his home in Tullahoma, Tennessee.

How Old Was Little Richard When He Died?

Little Richard was 87 years old on the day he died, having lived a long and happy life.

How Did Little Richard Die?

Little Richard began having health problems as early as 1985 when he crashed his car into a telephone pole. While he didn’t have immediate issues following the accident, he had hip pain that never went away. He began using crutches for this pain in 2007.

In 2013, Little Richard suffered a heart attack, and his health began to decline rapidly. By 2016, he claimed he was still singing at home, but the 83-year-old no longer took to the stage. In March 2020, he caught an illness he never recovered from, which led to his death.

The final cause of death for Little Richard is listed as bone cancer.

Little Richard’s Funeral

Little Richard was buried at Oakwood University Memorial Gardens Cemetery in Huntsville, Alabama, in the days following his death. His funeral was surprisingly open casket, and many celebrities attended.

The funeral service was filmed, which you can watch on YouTube below.

Little Richard’s Net Worth

At the time of his death in 2020, it is said that Little Richard had a net worth of about $45 million.

Who Did Little Richard Marry?

Little Richard’s wife, Ernestine Harvin, met Little Richard in 1957 at a church rally. The two began dating and finally got married 2 years later.

During their marriage, the two decided to adopt a one-year-old boy from a fellow churchgoer named Danny Jones, who became Little Richard’s only child. The marriage ended in divorce in 1964.

Was Little Richard Gay?

In 1950, Little Richard began performing in drag, leading many people to question whether or not the artist was gay. Even though he was married for a period of 5 years, and his wife claimed they had a normal marriage, Little Richard ended the marriage confessing he was gay.

It is a bit unclear, however, as, throughout the years, Little Richard was involved with both sexes, leading many to conclude the singer was actually bi-sexual. In one instance in 1984, the singer even said he was “omnisexual.”

little richard interview
Little Richard being interviewed by Army Archerd on the red carpet at the 60th Annual Academy Awards in 1988. Photo by Alan Light.

Little Richard Songs

As a musician, Little Richard was best known for his songs. Below is a list of his most popular tracks.

Little Richard Movie

Little Richard had a movie about his life filmed by NBC. The movie is called Little Richard and is based on a book about the artist’s life.

Where is Little Richard Now?

Seeing as Little Richard passed away in 2020 and was a firm believer in God, it is likely that his soul is in the Christian heaven. His body rests in Huntsville, Alabama.


Written by Hope Davis

Long-time music lover Hope became a full-time writer in 2020 after being laid off from her regular job due to COVID-19. She now spends her time traveling the world to see her favorite bands while writing about them!


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