Little Richard was born as Richard Wayne Penniman in Macon, Georgia, on December 5, 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,” Little Richard told Rolling Stone magazine 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,” he later said.
Little Richard was one of 12 children, and said he had started singing because he wanted to stand out from his siblings.
His music was embraced by both black and white fans at a time when parts of the US were still segregated, and concerts had a rope up the centre of the auditorium to divide people by color.
Little Richard had his biggest hits in the 1950s and was known for his exuberant performances, shrieks, raspy voice and flamboyant outfits. He sold more than 30 million records worldwide.