Pioneering rock ‘n’ roll singer Little Richard has died at the age of 87, his son Danny Penniman has told Rolling Stone.
The magazine quoted him as saying his father’s cause of death was unknown.
Little Richard’s hits included Good Golly Miss Molly, which originally made the UK charts in 1958.
The singer, who was born in Georgia as Richard Wayne Penniman, was among the first group of inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.
His other well-known songs include Tutti Frutti, which sold more than a million records, and Long Tall Sally – later recorded by The Beatles.
The star, who was known for his exuberant performances, shrieks, raspy voice and flamboyant outfits, had his biggest hits in the 1950s.
Paying tribute after news of his death emerged, Chic co-founder Nile Rodgers said it was “the loss of a true giant.”
Little Richard was one of 12 children, and said he had started singing because he wanted to stand out from his siblings.
“I was the biggest head of all, and I still have the biggest head,” he told BBC Radio 4 in 1998.
“I did what I did, because I wanted attention. When I started banging on the piano and screaming and singing, I got attention.”
An all-round force of nature
By Ian Youngs, BBC Arts and Entertainment Reporter
An electric performer, a flamboyant persona, a shrieking vocalist, an all-round force of nature – popular music hadn’t seen the like of Little Richard before he emerged from New Orleans in the mid-1950s.
If there had been no Little Richard, a key part of DNA would have been missing from acts like The Beatles, Bob Dylan, David Bowie and Jimi Hendrix – all of whom idolised him.
With the likes of Chuck Berry and Elvis, he was one of the handful of US acts who concocted the primordial soup of blues, R&B and gospel that led to the evolution of rock ‘n’ roll in the 60s.
Standing at his piano with his bouffant hair and letting rip with full-throated voice on songs like Tutti Frutti, Long Tall Sally, Lucille and Good Golly Miss Molly, he was a gust of fresh air after a strait-laced post-war age.
Richard was born in Macon, Georgia, on 5 December 1932. Growing up in the southern US state, he absorbed the rhythms of gospel music and the influences of New Orleans, blending them into his own piano-laden extravaganzas.
His father was a preacher who also ran a nightclub, and his mother was a devout Baptist.
“I was born in the slums. My daddy sold whiskey, bootleg whiskey,” he told Rolling Stone in 1970.
The singer left home in his teens after disagreements with his father – who initially didn’t support his music.
“My daddy wanted seven boys, and I had spoiled it, because I was gay,” the showman later said.
Though openly homosexual for many years, Richard also had relationships with women. He married Ernestine Harvin, a fellow Evangelical, and later adopted a son.
His commitment to depravity extended to drugs, boozing and sex parties – to which he would take his Bible.
Richard’s complex attitude to his sexuality meant he was never embraced as a gay icon. Later in life he became a born-again Christian and renounced homosexuality, framing it as a temporary choice he had made.
The Rolling Stones, who opened shows for him, spoke reverently of his on-stage prowess. “Little Richard drove the whole house into a complete frenzy,” Mick Jagger once said. “There is no single phrase to describe his hold on the audience.”