Richard Wayne Penniman (born December 5, 1932), known by his stage name Little Richard, is an American recording artist, songwriter, and musician. He has been an influential figure in popular music and culture for over six decades. Penniman’s most celebrated work dates from the mid 1950s where his dynamic music and charismatic showmanship laid the foundation for rock and roll. His music also had a pivotal impact on the formation of other popular music genres, including soul and funk. Penniman influenced numerous singers and musicians across musical genres from rock to rap.
“Tutti Frutti” (means “All Fruits” in Italian, but Little Richard said it was slang for sex) is a song co-written by Little Richard, which was recorded in 1955 and became his first major hit record. With its opening cry of “A-wop-bom-a-loo-mop-a-lomp-bom-bom!” (a verbal rendition of a drum pattern that Little Richard had imagined) and its hard-driving sound and wild lyrics, it became not only a model for many future Little Richard songs, but also a model for rock and roll itself.
In 2007, an eclectic panel of renowned recording artists voted “Tutti Frutti” number 1 on Mojo’s The Top 100 Records That Changed The World, hailing the recording as “the sound of the birth of rock and roll.” In 2010, the US Library of Congress National Recording Registry added the recording to its registry, claiming the “unique vocalizing over the irresistible beat announced a new era in music”. In April 2012, Rolling Stone magazine declared that the song “still contains what has to be considered the most inspired rock lyric ever recorded: “”A-wop-bom-a-loo-mop-a-lomp-bom-bom!!”
Penniman has been honored by many institutions, including inductions into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. He is the recipient of Lifetime Achievement Awards from The Recording Academy and the Rhythm and Blues Foundation. Penniman’s “Tutti Frutti” (1955) was included in the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry in 2010, claiming the “unique vocalizing over the irresistible beat announced a new era in music.”