Little Richard

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Little Richard's flamboyant style and over-the-top stage antics prefigured later figures like Elton John, and if Richard used the piano as much as a prop as he used it as an instrument, the fact remains that he had a big hand in casting the template for rock & roll piano. His songwriting, too, a delightful mix of lust and nonsense, helped shape rock's self-image as music of fun and rebellious abandon. Merging gospel passion with hard-charging New Orleans R&B piano riffs, singing like a manic angel, and blessed with the streetwise poetry of a junkyard Shakespeare in his songwriting, Little Richard had a run of high-charged hits in 1956 and 1957 that is nothing short of astounding, including the classics "Tutti Frutti," "Long Tall Sally," "Lucille," "Good Golly Miss Molly," "Jenny, Jenny," a clattering, rocking litany by this one of a kind artist. He may have ended up as somewhat of a parody of himself, but these tracks are the real deal, and the original versions of the above songs are all here (Little Richard re-recorded much of this material later in his career -- in only slightly diminished versions). Rock & roll may have gotten louder and bigger as time went on, but it never sounded more alive or electric (in the truest sense of the word) than it did with Little Richard at his mid-'50s peak.

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