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Who invented Rock and Roll?

When people think of rock and roll they tend to think of someone like Elvis or the Beatles but little do many people know that rock and roll originated within the black community predominantly in America.

"The blues had an illegitimate baby and we named it rock 'n' roll," Little Richard, one of the originators of rock 'n' roll as we know it, once said, according to RealClearHistory. Having started as rhythm and blues music in the 1940s before gaining a foothold and evolving in the '50s, no one person can lay claim to inventing the rock 'n' roll phenomenon. The "we" Little Richard is alluding to refers to black rock 'n' roll pioneers such as Little Richard himself, a young Ike Turner, Bo Diddley, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Chuck Berry.

Rock 'n' roll was influenced by a Deep South black music genre called the blues. "It [rock 'n' roll] started out as rhythm and blues," Little Richard told Time in 2001. "There wasn't nobody playing it at the time but black people — myself, Fats Domino, Chuck Berry. White kids started paying more attention to this music, white girls were going over to this music, they needed somebody to come in there — like Elvis."

Little Richard

Another originator of rock 'n' roll, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Lloyd Price, has said that Elvis is not responsible for the creation of the genre. "I knew Elvis," he told the New York Sun in 2004."This is media history, not real history.

Rolling Stone started in 1967. So how can they say who started rock and roll in 1954? The fact is that Fats Domino sold more records than Elvis between 1953 and 1956. I loved Elvis, but it's a lie to say he invented anything."

But that doesn't mean Elvis meant to steal the spotlight from black rock musicians. "Presley by all accounts was quick to acknowledge his debt to African-American performers," Noah Berlatsky wrote for the Atlantic. "And scholars have even argued that, by playing multi-racial music for multi-racial audiences, he helped to point the path away from segregation."

It is also important to acknowledge how black musicians influenced more recent rock and roll and metal musicians. Little Richard obviously never released a heavy metal album, but it's safe to say without Little Richard heavy metal wouldn't exist.

Lemmy Kilmeister

One of Richard's biggest fans was Motorhead's Lemmy Kilmister, who made no secret of what a big influence Richard was one him. In a 2011 interview with Chicago Tribune, Kilmister said of Richard "Little Richard sang how I felt. I was 12 years old when I first heard him and that music, and I felt it was mine." In an interview with Louder Than War, Kilmister said "For me it was Little Richard that was the king. Imagine being black and gay from Macon Georgia, no wonder he became a singer — he could never have been a boxer!" Richard had a series of hits in the 50s including "Tutti Frutti," “Long Tall Sally,” “Rip It Up,” and “Lucille.”

Many other artists rock and roll and otherwise have been greatly influenced by Little Richard. One of them was Elton John. A world without Little Richard might well have meant a world without Elton John, whose flamboyant stage persona, falsetto vocal flourishes, and hard-pounding piano attack owe so much to Little Richard’s groundbreaking style and vision. “Without a doubt—musically, vocally, and visually—he was my biggest influence,” tweeted Elton after Little Richards death this year. The pair recorded “The Power” together for 1993’s Duets album, but 1972’s “Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting)” is far more indicative of how Little Richard’s music and madness impacted Elton.

One of the greatest and most influential garage rock groups of all time, Tacoma, Washington’s Sonics might have looked pretty strait-laced, but they owed a heavy debt indeed to Little Richard. Not only did the band cover several of his songs, but when Sonics frontman and keyboardist Gerry Roslie opened his mouth to roar through such unhinged originals as “Psycho,” “The Witch,” and “Cinderella,” it was pretty damn clear where he’d learned to sing like that.

Through all of this we can see how the black community invented rock and roll and how through that and their culture they have influenced so many huge musicians that owe at least part of their success to these trailblazers of rock and roll and how walked so that the likes of Queen and Motorhead could run.


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