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The Life and Times of Little Richard: The Authorised Biography

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The classic authorized biography that told it all. When Little Richard burst onto the scene in the early 1950s, he sounded like nothing on earth. Drenched in sweat, screaming, hollering and pumping his piano, his stage act was so explosive that for years people assumed the real man could never match the flamboyant public image. Then came Charles White's sensational book ex The classic authorized biography that told it all. When Little Richard burst onto the scene in the early 1950s, he sounded like nothing on earth. Drenched in sweat, screaming, hollering and pumping his piano, his stage act was so explosive that for years people assumed the real man could never match the flamboyant public image. Then came Charles White's sensational book exposing the even more astonishing life and times of Richard Wayne Penniman from Georgia. Little Richard made himself a star through sheer force of personality, breaking racial and sexual taboos on his way to becoming the primal force of Fifties rock 'n' roll. Elvis Presley called him 'the greatest'. Otis Redding called him his 'inspiration' and James Brown called him his idol. Charles White is the only author to have captured the true energy of Little Richard. Using Richard's own words, White chronicles a staggering career that spanned the very rules of rock 'n' roll, the rise of The Beatles, tussles with God and The Devil and an erratic series of comebacks. Illustrated with pictures from Little Richard's own archive and including a comprehensive discography.


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The classic authorized biography that told it all. When Little Richard burst onto the scene in the early 1950s, he sounded like nothing on earth. Drenched in sweat, screaming, hollering and pumping his piano, his stage act was so explosive that for years people assumed the real man could never match the flamboyant public image. Then came Charles White's sensational book ex The classic authorized biography that told it all. When Little Richard burst onto the scene in the early 1950s, he sounded like nothing on earth. Drenched in sweat, screaming, hollering and pumping his piano, his stage act was so explosive that for years people assumed the real man could never match the flamboyant public image. Then came Charles White's sensational book exposing the even more astonishing life and times of Richard Wayne Penniman from Georgia. Little Richard made himself a star through sheer force of personality, breaking racial and sexual taboos on his way to becoming the primal force of Fifties rock 'n' roll. Elvis Presley called him 'the greatest'. Otis Redding called him his 'inspiration' and James Brown called him his idol. Charles White is the only author to have captured the true energy of Little Richard. Using Richard's own words, White chronicles a staggering career that spanned the very rules of rock 'n' roll, the rise of The Beatles, tussles with God and The Devil and an erratic series of comebacks. Illustrated with pictures from Little Richard's own archive and including a comprehensive discography.

30 review for The Life and Times of Little Richard: The Authorised Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    RIP Little Richard 1932-2020, one of the original primal forces of rock and roll This is Nik Cohn on the subject of Little Richard: He looked beautiful. He wore a baggy suit with elephant trousers, 26 inches at the bottoms, and he had his hair back-combed in a monstrous plume like a fountain. Then he had a little toothbrush moustache and a round, totally ecstatic face. He’d scream and scream and scream. He had a freak voice, tireless, hysterical, completely indestructible, and he never in his life RIP Little Richard 1932-2020, one of the original primal forces of rock and roll This is Nik Cohn on the subject of Little Richard: He looked beautiful. He wore a baggy suit with elephant trousers, 26 inches at the bottoms, and he had his hair back-combed in a monstrous plume like a fountain. Then he had a little toothbrush moustache and a round, totally ecstatic face. He’d scream and scream and scream. He had a freak voice, tireless, hysterical, completely indestructible, and he never in his life sang at anything lower than an enraged bull-like roar. On every phrase he’d embroider with squeals, rasps, siren whoops. His stamina, his drive were limitless and his songs were mostly non-songs, nothing but bedrock twelve-bars with playroom lyrics, but he’d still put them across as if every last syllable was liquid gold. The website Popmatters wrote: As with Chuck Berry, Little Richard's subversion was non-prescriptive and pre-political in nature: a symbolic suggestion that life possibilities and modes of expression existed beyond the prison gates of the official adult culture. Little Richard's liberationist gestures and hilarity in excess would subsequently be inherited by up-starts such as James Brown, George Clinton and Prince. Little Richard, along with the Dionysian half of all great pop and rock, gives you that glimpse of excess which you know you were born for but you know you can't get to. For two minutes life is perfect. Saturday night and I just got paid Fool about my money, don't try to save My heart says go go, have a time! It's Saturday night and I'm feelin' fine! Gonna rip it up Gonna rip it up And ball tonight Oh yes... and this book is an excellent account of the crucial part of Little Richard's life. Recommended.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Andy

    Little Richard is incapable of being dull, he's incapable of making a bad record, and he's incapable of being in a lousy book. Richard's pretty open in this book, talking about his orgies with Buddy Holly and the army of young men at his beck and call. But don't worry, he quotes scriptures too!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Melanie Hilliard

    Now this is summer reading my friends - pooping in jars, men dressing in women's clothes, and oh what glorious music. This is a man that truly changed popular culture and how much money he was denied because of the color of his skin. Genius. Craaaazy. Genius trumps all.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    Little Richard WAS the life force incarnate. I mean he probably still is, but especially back in the day.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ethan Miller

    I'm not sure that Charles White wrote or put together a 5 star Biography here (maybe 4 star) but the tales that Little Richard tells in this book are so ecstatic, so openly and gleefully perverse you really have to read it to believe it. The raw, uncut, shocking recounts as told by Little Richard are definitely 5 star (most of the content of this book is transcribed interviews with Richard in his own voice). I read sections of this book out loud in the tour van to a gang of decades long hardened I'm not sure that Charles White wrote or put together a 5 star Biography here (maybe 4 star) but the tales that Little Richard tells in this book are so ecstatic, so openly and gleefully perverse you really have to read it to believe it. The raw, uncut, shocking recounts as told by Little Richard are definitely 5 star (most of the content of this book is transcribed interviews with Richard in his own voice). I read sections of this book out loud in the tour van to a gang of decades long hardened tour dogs and the recounting of Little Richard's bisexual conquests through the entertainment underworld of 1950s America had myself and these men blushing and covering their mouths with shock like a bunch of society dames who just heard the hostess shart at a Victorian tea party. Little Richard's struggle with giving up his drugs, his homosexuality, his super flamboyant rock star persona and sticking with a life in the church are indeed a life long battle and really gives his tale another level of depth. You can really see how torn LR was throughout his life, he'll speak of the bible in one line with such honest and passionate enthusiasm and talk about all night druggy gang bangs, which though he highly denounces now, also rings with tone of a man basking, indeed rolling joyfully deep in the recollections of his escapades. As far as music goes Little Richard may be the most powerful and influential voice of Rock and Roll the world has ever known and there is plenty here for the hard core music fan too. Recounts by the engineers on the "Long Tall Sally" and "Tutti Frutti" sessions are awe inspiring as LR does all live performance in the studio, working up the takes until he hits the perfect frenzied pitch and the great performance take is captured and sealed into history. It is recounted that LR played the piano on those sessions so hard that he'd break piano wires within the lowest octave of the piano. LR also has amazing stories to tell about the other stars he rolled with in his years on the road at work and in play (play was usually drugs,gang bangs,orgies and compulsive masturbation recounted in gory detail) from Buddy Holly to Lennon and McCartney to name a few minor players in this tale of religion, music and sin. It's a 5 star read.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Roth

    I must say that this is a stunning portrait of a true musical genius. At the beginning of the book I was full of admiration for his out-of-the-closet bisexuality (with a tilt toward the gay end of the spectrum), so courageous and untypical for someone of his time and place. By the end, though, with him claiming to have been "cured" of his homosexuality (which he regards as a social contagion, not as a congenital identity) by evangelical Christianity. I am, of course, more sympathetic with the po I must say that this is a stunning portrait of a true musical genius. At the beginning of the book I was full of admiration for his out-of-the-closet bisexuality (with a tilt toward the gay end of the spectrum), so courageous and untypical for someone of his time and place. By the end, though, with him claiming to have been "cured" of his homosexuality (which he regards as a social contagion, not as a congenital identity) by evangelical Christianity. I am, of course, more sympathetic with the point of view of fellow rhythm-and-blues artist and evangelical Christian Johnny Otis, quoted in this book, who said that the injunctions against homosexuality in Leviticus and Paul mean nothing when weighed against Jesus's instructions that we love one another and withhold moral judgment. Richard regards this as a "happy ending" and as a triumph. I regard it as ongoing damage done by organized religion on a person who really actually did seem to be having fun as a promiscuous bisexual but who somehow, falsely, conflated those proclivities with the drug addiction that later took over his life. A truly fascinating document.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I read this before going to see Little Richard play at the Riverside Casino. Screaming, wailing, blow jobs, pooping in jars, a sky-high pompadour...rock n' roll would have never been the same without him.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Thirstyicon

    I thought it was quite open and a good read. It's truly eye opening, even to a music lover like myself. YOu learn just how many people Richard influenced and or worked with: The Beatles, The Stones, Jimi Hendrix, etc! I recommend this book to anyone who claims to love Rock N Roll.

  9. 5 out of 5

    A.C. Lamberty

    This would be such a good biopic.....someone get Dee Rees’s assistant on the line I wanna do an avail check

  10. 4 out of 5

    Alan

    This was a quick read. I should probably have said four stars instead of three, but that's my rating right now. How about 3.5 stars? Is it worth reading? Those curious about the early history of rock and roll will love it. There is a lot of info here as it is told mostly in first person by Little Richard himself. There are sections scattered between his historical recollections from his mother, sisters, brothers and various band members and former managers. This book pulls no punches. If talk of e This was a quick read. I should probably have said four stars instead of three, but that's my rating right now. How about 3.5 stars? Is it worth reading? Those curious about the early history of rock and roll will love it. There is a lot of info here as it is told mostly in first person by Little Richard himself. There are sections scattered between his historical recollections from his mother, sisters, brothers and various band members and former managers. This book pulls no punches. If talk of explicit sexual encounters and drug use offend you then this book is not for you. There is also a long chapter that is basically a sermon by Little Richard during his second time being a preacher. Yes, he did it twice. He rocked and rolled for a few years, then quit very suddenly (in mid-tour) to abandon rock and turn to the pulpit. That lasted about two years and somehow promoter Don Arden (yes, Sharon Osbourne's daddy) convinced him to play rock again. Mr. Penniman rock and rolled again until 1975. Since then he's been a preacher, but balanced that out with a performance here and there until he retired at age 70. NO ONE promotes Little Richard better than the man himself. He talks a good game and insists he is better ON STAGE then many other early rockers. That's right, he admits that he never captured himself completely on record. Little Richard is now 83. This book was first done in 1984 and my Kindle edition was a revised edition with updates. I cannot claim that reading this is essential, but curious fans will be enjoy the craziness. The man partied as heavy as Led Zeppelin.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Ramzi

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This book tells the life story of Little Richard from early Childhood to the 1990s. Virtually the entire book is told in testimonials, with the majority of them coming from Richard himself. Bits of narrative connect the quotations but most of the story is told through first person accounting. It was a fun but exhausting read. Richard turns out to be a highly conflicted person, constantly embracing and then rejecting his musical legacy. Like many rock bios, salacious stories of drugs and sex perm This book tells the life story of Little Richard from early Childhood to the 1990s. Virtually the entire book is told in testimonials, with the majority of them coming from Richard himself. Bits of narrative connect the quotations but most of the story is told through first person accounting. It was a fun but exhausting read. Richard turns out to be a highly conflicted person, constantly embracing and then rejecting his musical legacy. Like many rock bios, salacious stories of drugs and sex permeate the book but the really interesting parts are actually the stories of Richard's upringing in Macon, Georgia, where music was a way of life in what seemed like a much simpler time. It's this segment of his life and the and the background in gospel music that drove him to become one of the most influential rock singers, composers and performers of all time. The writing is typical "rock bio" (i.e. average) but where the book suffers the most is that it veers into puff piece at times. Nonetheless, it's a really interesting story about a hugely influential talent and that alone is enough to warrant a look.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Tlingit

    Wow, Little Richard is pretty straight forward in this book. I'll write more when I'm finished. An interesting life. The book is written such that the author provides certain details then asks Little Richard, his family members and some people close to him to give personal accounts. It shows a man fighting with duality while sharing vast amounts of energy with his audience. Most of this book was really engaging. I have to say that I was not very interested in the chapter where Little Richard spou Wow, Little Richard is pretty straight forward in this book. I'll write more when I'm finished. An interesting life. The book is written such that the author provides certain details then asks Little Richard, his family members and some people close to him to give personal accounts. It shows a man fighting with duality while sharing vast amounts of energy with his audience. Most of this book was really engaging. I have to say that I was not very interested in the chapter where Little Richard spouts his opinions on being gay, religion and his views on living a righteous life but I understand why it was in there. I skimmed through much of it. I only wished there were more pictures.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Mirna

    This was the best book I read in 2011. It's wacky and weird yet honest and perfect. Little Richard played a huge part in inventing rock and roll and his autobiography tells the story of his journey in the music industry during a racially-charged era. This has some really shocking moments, he really doesn't hold back on any of his sexual exploits. You really get a feeling for what it was like and how many people he actually influenced. My favorite part of this book is how he describes the energy This was the best book I read in 2011. It's wacky and weird yet honest and perfect. Little Richard played a huge part in inventing rock and roll and his autobiography tells the story of his journey in the music industry during a racially-charged era. This has some really shocking moments, he really doesn't hold back on any of his sexual exploits. You really get a feeling for what it was like and how many people he actually influenced. My favorite part of this book is how he describes the energy of his shows, I really got a tinge of jealousy because I will never be able to experience it.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    What's interesting about Little Richard is his character, his music, its effect on the country and on other musicians, the relationships everyone had, and the scene that revolved around them. I thought the telling of Little Richard's remarkable life story could have benefited from a more remarkable narrative setting than a flat chronology of record sales and business breakups with Bumps Blackwell. I did, however, enjoy the sections of oral biography, and occasionally contrasting memories of the What's interesting about Little Richard is his character, his music, its effect on the country and on other musicians, the relationships everyone had, and the scene that revolved around them. I thought the telling of Little Richard's remarkable life story could have benefited from a more remarkable narrative setting than a flat chronology of record sales and business breakups with Bumps Blackwell. I did, however, enjoy the sections of oral biography, and occasionally contrasting memories of the same events. I would recommend the book for those parts.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    When I first picked this up, I opened it at random pages and found something ridiculously awesome each time. Way over the top, he holds nothing back in this. It is primarily told in an oral history format, with narration by LR and then some cheesy and melodramatic interludes by Charles White. I enjoyed this quite a bit, except for the last couple of chapters, which were a bummer.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Patricia

    Amazing that someone so talented and so "out" could have brought us through rock and roll at a time when the US was still filled with racial tension and great degrees of intolerance. This is an inspiring presentation not only of Little Richard, but of his supportive mother, the South, and the struggle for individualism and affirmation.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Nicolas

    Little Richard is the best and the real king of rock & roll. This biography is pretty poorly written though. The only thing that saves it is Little Richard's crazy lifestyle and personality. It's made up of third-person biography and first person accounts mostly from Little Richard (which are the best parts). Little Richard is the best and the real king of rock & roll. This biography is pretty poorly written though. The only thing that saves it is Little Richard's crazy lifestyle and personality. It's made up of third-person biography and first person accounts mostly from Little Richard (which are the best parts).

  18. 5 out of 5

    Gretchen

    I loved reading about Little Richard's journey through music, religion & life. He is one of my idols & it was great to learn more about him--the good, bad & in between. He's been through a lot and has had quite an interesting life. I loved reading about Little Richard's journey through music, religion & life. He is one of my idols & it was great to learn more about him--the good, bad & in between. He's been through a lot and has had quite an interesting life.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Royan

    Picked this up because it was on Bowie's top books. Really blown-away by the writing style of Mr. White. It reads like a documentary with cutaways to multiple interviewees. Sad insights on Richard's viewpoint of his own sexuality.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Shannon

    wow. amazing! little richard, what an amazing story. much respect. if you don't get hooked after the first 25 pages, i'd like to talk.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    Little Richard did some crazy shit. And I mean that very, very literally.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Edward

    Freakazoid!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Dale Stonehouse

    Knock knock. Who's there? Yucky. Great man, great story, interesting book, especially for white Americans who didn't hear the music or see the man in his youth.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kevin G

    10 Words (or less) Review: The REAL King of Rock 'n' Roll.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Konrad Crnkovic

    It's all there - debauchery, religion and rock and roll.

  26. 5 out of 5

    David

    A very real biography. What a guy!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jimi

    Still one of the best, and craziest Rock & Roll biographies ever! Still one of the best, and craziest Rock & Roll biographies ever!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Dylan Behan

    Little Richard, so dirty, then so Christian and preachy.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ewan

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. He influenced everyone, a fascinating life to read about but the self loathing makes it a sad read. A mixture of interviews and the biographer's notes and comments.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Geoff Pickering

    weird. seems way fake-but entertaining

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