An overdue tribute to a trailblazing pioneer who shaped the world of rock ‘n’ roll.
In this course-correcting documentary, the complicated legacy of Rock ’n’ roll icon Little Richard is unpacked and celebrated. Richard Wayne Penniman was born in Macon, Georgia; one of 12 children, his father was a church deacon, nightclub owner and moonshine bootlegger. These disparate influences would shape the aspiring musician and inform the inner conflict within. Thrown out of his home for being queer, Richard found refuge in the notorious ‘chitlin circuit’, speakeasies led by queer black women who sang raunchy blues music and where Richard himself performed in drag as his alter ego, Princess LaVonne. Raised on gospel and liberated by these underground musical spaces, Little Richard created a unique persona whose infectious, joyful music infused sex into post-war America.
Lisa Cortes's highly entertaining documentary places Richard’s music legacy at the heart of America’s conflicted relationship with black music, the wellspring of pop and the foundations of Rock ’n’ roll. Not shying away from Richard’s struggles with drugs, his sexuality and controversial religious views, the documentary also charts his struggles for legitimacy in mainstream music where songs by black artists were often co-opted by white performers. The various musicians interviewed throughout the film attest to the influence he had on an endless parade of artists, including Mick Jagger, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie, Prince and even underground filmmaker John Waters who famously got his trademark moustache from Richard. With a radical message at its core, Little Richard: I Am Everything speaks to an essential truth that American popular music was shaped by a black queer man.
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