Rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Little Richard was laid to rest Wednesday at the Oakwood Memorial Gardens Cemetery in Huntsville, Alabama.
The larger-than-life icon was buried among a humble gathering of close friends and family at the cemetery, owned by the historically black, Seventh-day Adventist college he attended, Oakwood University.
His band’s members spoke lovingly of Little Richard, born Richard Wayne Penniman, and his loyalty to them. Singer James “Big Jay” Nelson, told an ABC affiliate that Richard never fired his band members.
“It was a gesture of love…he gave everybody a career, too. It was never a job. It was a career,” Nelson said.
Beyond his chart-topping successes, Richard was remembered for his dedication to his Christian faith. An ordained minister, he had studied theology at Oakwood and briefly followed the footsteps of his father to become a Seventh Day Adventist preacher.
“Little Richard was known for his rock ‘n’ roll, but he was also known for meeting the rock that don’t roll and that’s Jesus Christ,” said Pastor James Owens.
Richard was among the first black artists to achieve mainstream fandom across the United States and helped lay the bedrock of rock ‘n’ roll with his energetic stage presence and shouted vocals over fast, uptempo tunes.
He paved the way for the likes of James Brown to Michael Jackson to The Beatles, landing him in the inaugural class inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, among the likes of Elvis, Chuck Berry and Fats Domino.
Most known for his hits like “Tutti Frutti” and “Long Tall Sally,” Richard died at the age of 87 on May 9 from bone cancer.
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