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From the Stars and Stripes archives

Little Richard: Still outrageous after all these years

Little Richard performs show at Frankfurt, Germany, in March, 1993.

DAVE CASEY/STARS AND STRIPES

By JON CONNOR | S&S STAFF WRITER Published: March 12, 1993

We all know that some things in life are unalterable. Death and taxes. Sunrise and sunset. Politicians and double talk. Little Richard and rock 'n' roll.

Richard Penniman, a.k.a. Little Richard, the self-proclaimed "architect of rock 'n' roll" is back, screaming through Europe with his characteristic blend of heart-pumping rock and mind-bending rhetoric.

"I love this country," said-the ageless (he's 60) bad boy prior to his concert last week in Frankfurt, Germany.

"When you star in Germany, you're always a star," he said as he began reminiscing about his five decades as a performer.

The Beatles, he noted, were once his opening act at the Star Club in Hamburg in the early '60s, a time when another little-known Britsh group — the Rolling Stones — were also seeking the limelight.

"Nobody was famous but me," Little Richard said.

And while those other rock icons have changed with the times, Little Richard acknowledges that he has not. "I believe when you get a certain age, the disc jockeys aren't going to play you."

Describing this tour as the "most electrifying show you'll ever see," he greeted the Frankfurt crowd of 1,500 loyal fans by standing on the piano.

With this crowd he could do no wrong, and in moments he was knocking 'em dead with Lucille, Good Golly, Miss Molly and an extended version of Blueberry Hill.

A believer in audience participation, Little Richard invited eight people on stage and had them around his piano in a sock-hop effect. This up-close-and-personal gesture was offset somewhat by the two bodyguards hovering nearby.

With the assistance of two young male dancers dressed in baby blue silk pajamas, Little Richard and his seven-piece band slammed into a thunderous Jenny, Jenny. The dancers, known as Jay and Shawn, impressed the crowd with their athleticism.

Later, Little Richard shifted gears, sliding into No Place Like Home, a country ballad written by a band member. The song, about longing for one's childhood, had the "innovator" moving slowly across the stage, singing from his heart.

He then shifted back into high gear as the band kicked into an extended version of Old Time Rock & Roll, this time with about 15 fans dancing on stage.

Little Richard knows what his fans want to hear, and he gives it to them: Tutti-Frutti, Rip It Up, Rock And Roll Music, Be-Bop-A-Lula, and, of course, Long Tall Sally.

"Rock 'n' roll is my livelihood. This is my job," the former preacher said. "It's not easy being famous. Fame is not what people think it is."

Whatever fame may be, Little Richard makes it look fun. He's quick to assert that superstars like David Bowie, Otis Redding, Bob Dylan, James Brown and Michael Jackson would not have found their pots of gold had he not paved the way.

"I love Michael Jackson," Little Richard said. "He's a genius. He reminds me of myself."
 

Little Richard performs at Frankfurt, Germany, in March, 1993.
DAVE CASEY/STARS AND STRIPES

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