Little Richard (1932 - 2020)

A photo of Little Richard
Richard Wayne Penniman
1932 - 2020
December 5, 1932
Macon, Bibb County, Georgia, United States
May 9, 2020
Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee, United States
Other Names
Little Richard, The Innovator, The Architect of Rock and Roll, The Originator
Little Richard was born on December 5, 1932 in Macon, Georgia, United States. According to his family tree, he married Ernestine Harvin on July 12, 1959 in California and they later divorced in 1964. He died on May 9, 2020 in Nashville, Tennessee, United States at 87 years old.
Updated: August 25, 2022
Richard Wayne Penniman, best known as "Little Richard" was a very popular singer, songwriter and musician whose most popular work is from the mid-1950s. He's credited with being one of the founders of Rock and Roll due to his music, charisma and showmanship, and has influenced a number of singers and musicians across numerous musical genres. Richard was born in Macon Georgia to Leva Mae (Stewart) and Charles "Bud" Penniman and was the third of twelve children. It was during his childhood Richard earned his nicknamed "Lil' Richard" because of his small and skinny frame which of course would stay with him the rest of his life. His father was a church deacon, brick mason and owner of the nightclub "Tip In Inn" and his mother was a member of Macon's New Hope Baptist Church. His parents were religious and gave Richard his first introduction into live music during worship. Understanding his parent's lives likely gives us insight into how his early childhood resulted into the rock and roll star we all know. When he moved out of his family's home, Richard was taken in by a white family who owned a club in Macon where Richard began performing and honed his talent. In 1951 Richard caught his first big break where he performed on an Atlanta radio station which resulted in a record contract with RCA. In 1955 Richard began working with Specialty Records producer Arte Rupe and his career took off. One of his most famous songs, Tutti Frutti (1955) became an instance hit topping Billboard charts in the United States & United Kingdom. He enjoyed a true celebrity life - the Beatles opened for Little Richard during a tour in the UK where Richard taught Paul McCartney some of his vocalizations, he had his own television special "The Little Richard Spectacular" , was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Songwriters Hall of Fame, was a recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Recording Academy and the Rhythm and Blue Foundation and received numerous other awards. Little Richard is well regarded as being one of the first crossover black artists that's talent appealed to all races. His music and concerts attracted all people despite being most popular during a time of segregation.
Show & Tell His Story
Share your memories, stories, and photos so that Richard is always remembered.
Update biography

Richard's biography

This collaborative biography is for you to show & tell Richard's life so that he is always remembered. What's this?

Little Richard
Most commonly known as
Richard Wayne Penniman
Full name
Little Richard, The Innovator, The Architect of Rock and Roll, The Originator
Other names or aliases
Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee United States
Last known residence
Richard Penniman was born on in Macon, Bibb County, Georgia United States
Richard Penniman died on in Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee United States
There is no cause of death listed for Richard.
Cause of death
Do you know the final resting place - gravesite in a cemetery or location of cremation - of Little Richard?
Burial / Funeral

Ethnicity & Lineage

What is Richard's ethnicity and where did his parents, grandparents & great-grandparents come from?

Nationality & Locations

Where was Richard born and where did he live?


Did Richard finish grade school, get a GED, go to high school, get a college degree or masters? What schools or universities did Richard attend?


Was Richard a religious man?


Was Richard baptized?


Talented entertainer and musican.

Personal Life

Share highlights of Richard's life. Experiences, organizations, & how he spent his time.

Military Service

Did Richard serve in the military or did a war or conflict interfere with his life?

Average Age

Life Expectancy

Looking for a different Richard Penniman?
View other bios of people named Richard Penniman


Little Richard's music and performance style has earned him the following awards: 1956: He received the Cashbox Triple Crown Award for "Long Tall Sally" in 1956. 1984: He was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. 1986: He was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the initial class of inductees chosen for that honor. 1990: He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. 1993: He received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award 1994: He received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation. 1997: He received the American Music Award of Merit. 2002: Along with Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley, he was honored as one of the first group of BMI icons at the 50th Annual BMI Pop Awards. 2002: He was inducted into the NAACP Image Award Hall of Fame. 2003: He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. 2006: He was inducted into the Apollo Theater Hall of Fame. 2008: He received a star on Nashville's Music City Walk of Fame. 2009: He was inducted to the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame. 2010: He received a plaque on the theater's Walk of Fame. 2015: He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame. 2015: He was inducted into the Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame. 2015: He received the Rhapsody & Rhythm Award from the National Museum of African American Music. 2019: He received the Distinguished Artist Award at the 2019 Tennessee Governor's Arts Awards
Daniel Pinna
Daniel Pinna shared
on May 09, 2020 9:56 AM

Family Tree

Richard's immediate relatives including parents, siblings, partnerships and children in the Penniman family tree.

Richard's Family Tree

Little Richard Little Richard


+ Add

Ernestine Harvin


Little Richard

Married: July 12, 1959 - 1964
Cause of Separation: Divorce
Married at: California United States
Little Richard Little Richard


Friends can be as close as family. Add Richard's family friends, and his friends from childhood through adulthood.

Add bio


Photos and snapshots taken of Little Richard, his Penniman family, and locations and places or events from his life.



Leave a comment to ask questions, share information, or simply to show that you care about Richard.



Share Richard's obituary or write your own to preserve his legacy.

Little Richard died on May 9, 2020 in Nashville, Tennessee, United States at age 87. He was born on December 5, 1932 in Macon, Georgia, United States. According to his family tree, he married Ernestine Harvin on July 12, 1959 in California and they later divorced in 1964.

1932 - 2020 World Events

Refresh this page to see various historical events that occurred during Richard's lifetime.

In 1932, in the year that Little Richard was born, on February 27th, actress Elizabeth Taylor was born in London. Her parents were Americans living in London and when she was 7, the family moved to Los Angeles. Her first small part in a movie was in There's One Born Every Minute in 1942 but her first starring role was in National Velvet in 1944. She became as famous for her 8 marriages (to 7 people) as she was for her beauty and films.

In 1953, at the age of 21 years old, Richard was alive when actress and comedian Lucille Ball gave birth to Desi Arnaz, Jr on January 19th. On the same day on "I Love Lucy", the fictional Little Ricky was born as well. Baby Desi graced the cover of the first TV Guide magazine with a headline that read ""Lucy's $50,000,000 baby" - because the commercial revenue from his birth was expected to be that amount.

In 1968, by the time he was 36 years old, on April 4th, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the civil rights leader, was shot and killed by an assassin in Memphis. James Earl Ray was apprehended and plead guilty to shooting Dr. King. Ray died in jail in 1998.

In 1978, at the age of 46 years old, Richard was alive when on July 25th, Louise Brown, the first "test-tube baby", was born at Oldham Hospital in London. Louise was conceived through IVF (in vitro fertilization), a controversial and experimental procedure at the time.

In 1994, when he was 62 years old, on May 6th, the Channel Tunnel or "Chunnel" was officially opened. The Chunnel is a railway tunnel beneath the English Channel that connects Great Britain to mainland France. Original plans for such a tunnel were developed in 1802 and approved by Napoleon Bonaparte but the British rejected the plan fearing that Napoleon would use the railway to invade.

Back to Top