Rock ’n’ roll icon Little Richard, who died this weekend at age 87, has been heralded by the entertainment industry as a trailblazer whose performances influenced Elvis, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, his former sideman Jimi Hendrix, Elton John, Prince, Bowie, and countless others.
But the faith he found late in life has been overshadowed. Little Richard accepted Christ as personal savior near the end of his life and that dramatic decision to become a follower of Christ reverberated across the industry as he ended his career.
In previous interviews, the famous singer referred to himself as “omnisexual,” revealing in an interview with GQ five years ago that he lived a life of what he described as perversion, including orgies with men and women. But in an extensive interview with Three Angels Broadcasting Network, an Illinois-based Christian TV and radio network, Little Richard said you can’t live that way and go to heaven, referring to “unnatural affections” that include same-sex relationships.
“When I first came in show business, they wanted you to look like everybody but yourself,” he recalled. “And anybody that come into show business, they gonna come at you and say you’re gay, you’re straight, you’re a homosexual or something.
“But God, Jesus, made men men, He made women women, and you’ve got to live the way God wants you live… he can save you.”
The singer admitted he fell to the temptations of the entertainment industry. In the biography The Life And Times Of Little Richard, Richard, whose given name is Richard Wayne Penniman, revealed that his marriage to Ernestine Campbell fell apart because of his sexuality and being neglectful.
“Regardless of whatever you are, he loves you,” he said. “I don’t care what you are. He loves you and he can save you. All you’ve got to do is say, ‘Lord, take me as I am. I’m a sinner.’ But we all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. The only holy, righteous person is Jesus, and he wants us to be just like him because, in order to go to heaven, we’ve got to look like him.”
Little Richard said he asked God to save him and the Lord spoke to him, saying, “Richard, you’re singing `Tutti Frutti.’ You’re singing `Good Golly Miss Molly.’ You’re singing ‘Long Tall Sally.’ You’re singing ‘The Girl Can’t Help It’ and ‘She’s Got It’ and all of these things.”
And Richard asked, “Lord, can I do this and still be saved?” And according to the singer, the Lord replied, “Richard, no man can serve two masters.”
Richard said he had to release everything after that, so he retired from performing and recording. “People want to go to heaven, but they don’t want to have to give up nothing,” he said. “And in order to see Jesus, you’ve got to give up something.”
–Dwight Widaman | Metro Voice