NOTE: This was posted two days ago on Dreamwidth, which is not crossposting for me. With any luck, that will change, but until then, I'll manually crosspost.
Little Richard, the Rev. Richard Penniman, has, as some say, passed on to glory.
He didn't have to. He had glory all around him. He was glorious.
The Guardian has an excellent obituary, and a fantastic story about the roots of Richard's glory. I urge anyone reading the obituary to take in at least a few minutes of the 27-plus minute clip from a 1966 Paris show he did, at about the age of 34.
By the end of the clip, he's torn his shirt from his body - you hear and watch the roar from the mesmerized, revved up crowd before you see him stalk the stage, teasing audience members Do you want my shirt? Do you? Do you? before he throws it out for them to fight for it. In the audience, a young man bites his lip as he watches Richard; a young woman bobs in ecstasy.
It doesn't matter that the sound isn't great. It doesn't matter that almost every song sounds so much the same. It's Richard you've come to see, to hear, as he gives out his shriek, his howl, again and again, because he knows that's what you crave.
And he craves something from you, you immediately understand.
Watch his eyes as he watches the audience, and you can't take your own off his face. He's searching that crowd for applause; for validation, for salvation.
He needed all three, all his life.
Like too many rock and roll pioneers, he was duped into thinking that you couldn't love rock and roll, and sex in all its magnificently variegated varieties, and God at the same time. That you couldn't surrender yourself to earthly and heavenly rapture at the same time. Because of that, he ping-ponged between hate and adoration of both the music he made and, presumably, the person he was at heart when worshiping that music.
Perhaps that doesn't matter. Perhaps it shouldn't.
On the other hand, I think it does, because the dichotomy informed his music, his persona, his life, his determination to somehow figure out whatever the hell he could or should do with his God given talent.
In the end, though, what matters is that he was gifted and grand. He was, and is, and always will be, the King of Rock and Roll.
Gone to glory? Nah. His arrival's just made Glory more glorious.