Little Richard Elton John: How Little Richard inspired Sir Elton ‘My biggest influence’

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Little Richard is known for his incredible tunes such as Tutti Frutti and Good Golly Miss Molly. His piano playing has influenced many artists, with Sir Tom Jones among them. Now Sir Elton John has paid tribute to Little Richard and spoken out about how the late star got him into the music business.

Sir Elton John is a performer with an iconic way of singing and performing.

His piano playing, he has diagnosed, is a “pounder” style, rather than intricate playing, and his songs are known for their incredible lyrical and melodic genius.

In Elizabeth J. Rosenthal’s His Song: The Musical Journey of Elton John, he spoke about opening for Little Richard in 1966: “When I saw Little Richard standing on top of the piano, all lights, sequins and energy.

“I decided there and then that I was going to be a rock ‘n’ roll piano player!”

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How Little Richard inspired Sir Elton John (Image: Getty)

He spoke more about this in an interview with The Guardian, when he chose Jerry Lee Lewis’ Great Balls of Fire, he spoke about seeing it performed in his hometown.

Sir Elton said: “Up until this song [Great Balls of Fire], the piano playing that I had heard had been more sedate.

“My dad collected George Shearing records, but this was the first time I heard someone beat the s**t out of a piano.

“When I saw Little Richard at the Harrow Granada, he played it standing up, but Jerry Lee Lewis actually jumped on the piano!

This was astonishing to me, that people could do that.

“Those records had such a huge effect on me, and they were just so great. I learned to play like that.

In 1973, Sir Elton spoke further of Little Richard’s influence to Rolling Stone, saying: “I heard Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis, and that was it.

“I didn’t ever want to be anything else. I’m more of a Little Richard stylist than a Jerry Lee Lewis, I think.

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Elton John performing (Image: Getty)

“Jerry Lee is a very intricate piano player and very skilful, but Little Richard is more of a pounder.”

Things were even more special for Sir Elton when, in 1993, he released his duets album which included the song The Power, featuring Little Richard.

Of course, this song was overshadowed by the new version of Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me with George Michael, which became a worldwide smash hit.

But despite this, Sir Elton referenced how he was “so nervous” to record it with the legend, in a tribute he made to the singer on Instagram.

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Elton John with George Michael (Image: Getty)

The tribute read: “Without a doubt – musically, vocally and visually – he was my biggest influence.

“Seeing him live in my teens was the most exciting event in my life at that point. Goosebumps, electricity and joy came from every pore.

“His records still sound fresh and the opening few seconds of “Tutti Frutti” are the most explosive in music history.

“I was lucky enough to work with him for my “Duets” album in 1993. He was shy and funny and I was SO nervous.

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Little Richard (Image: Getty)

“The track we recorded “The Power” is a favourite in my catalogue. We also played live at the Beverly Hilton and I felt like I’d died and gone to heaven.

“He influenced so many and is irreplaceable. A true legend, icon and a force of nature. #RIP Little Richard,

“Love, Elton x”

The death of Little Richard, born Richard Wayne Penniman, was confirmed by his son Danny on May 9, 2020, to Rolling Stone, but no cause of death has yet been revealed.


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