New York (AFP)

Little Richard, one of the American rock and roll pioneers, known for his catchy hymns like "Tutti Frutti" or "Long Tall Sally" and his wild presence on stage, died Saturday at the age of 87.

American music legend died of cancer, Reverend Bill Minson, a close friend of the singer, told AFP.

Little Richard, Richard Wayne Penniman of his real name, sealed with "Tutti Frutti", planetary tube remained in all memories thanks to his intro "Awop bop a loo mop / Alop bam boom", the advent of an era.

Coming from R&B, he allowed in the 1950s, like other black artists like Chuck Berry or Fats Domino, the emergence of a new genre, rock and roll. He was considered by Mick Jagger himself as "the greatest inspiration of (his) adolescence".

But much more than these two relatively wise contemporaries, Little Richard helped give rock and roll an air of scandal, with his garish shirts like no man wore then, his 15 cm high banana hairstyle, and his mustache as fine as a pencil line.

"When played, her music still has the same raw energy as it had when it first entered the music world in the mid-1950s," said Mick Jagger on Saturday.

- Missionary -

The man was as well known for his religious faith as for his unbridled sexuality, his orgies in hotel rooms in the 1960s having remained famous, for example.

The lyrics to "Tutti Frutti" (1955), which in a first version made reference to sex between men, had been watered down to the radio.

But in post-World War II America, shaped like a conservative white middle class, the style of this "showman", who described himself as "omni-sexual" and had been chased from his home in the by his father due to his overly effeminate style, was astonishing.

"We are all both male and female. Sex, for me, is like a buffet. Anything that tempts me, I take it," he explained to GQ magazine in 2012.

He was born December 5, 1932 in the city of Macon, Georgia, in a southern United States still very segregated, conservative and religious. Like many black legends of his generation, it was at the church, where he dreamed of becoming a pastor, that he developed a taste for music.

This religious education followed him all his life: after his orgies, he sometimes read religious texts and had interrupted a tour in 1957, at the height of his glory, to make the missionary for an evangelical church.

In his biography, he explained that he considered rock, the genre he had shaped with his skillful pianist hands, to be "demonic music".

He inspired legendary artists like the Beatles (who accompanied him for a time in concert), David Bowie, Elton John or the Rolling Stones therefore, who did not fail to pay tribute to him throughout their careers.

Bowie said he was fascinated by Little Richard when he saw him play in a film at the age of seven. "Without him, I would not have made music," he said.

Jimmy Page, guitarist for Led Zeppelin, hailed Saturday "a very sad loss". "It was Little Richard's songs that shaped rock and roll," he said.

Pianist, singer and composer, Little Richard was among the first artists to be introduced to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the American pantheon of rock and popular culture, alongside other founders of the genre such as Elvis Presley or Jerry Lee Lewis. in 1986.

© 2020 AFP