Books

The Life and Times of Little Richard review – eye-popping anecdotes of a pornographic nature

A glimpse inside the fascinating mind of the originator of rock'n'roll

The Life and Times of Little Richard by Charles White is out on 22 February (Omnibus Press, £16.99)

Little Richard, the big bang of rock ’n’ roll freakdom, was a magnificent and unique cat whose many contradictions and epoch-shaking genius were laid bare in Charles White’s riveting 1984 biography The Life and Times of Little Richard. This latest edition features bonus chapters, previously unseen photos and an exhaustive discography.

Written with Richard’s full cooperation, it mostly consists of transcribed interviews linked by White’s contextualising interludes. This allows Richard and his associates to tell their versions of the truth, which are far more interesting than anything White – a rather prosaic writer – has to say. He’s such an awestruck fanboy he never challenges our sometimes-unreliable narrator.

That, however, works in the book’s favour. We spend unedited time in the fascinating mind of Little Richard, a devoutly religious man who never came to terms with his homosexuality and addiction to the devil’s music. He was constantly battling against himself, a sweet, eccentric, vulnerable, self-loathing enigma who also – quite rightly – knew he was the greatest. Little Richard is rock ’n’ roll, the originator of that hard, fast, funky, glorious reason for living.

He was also a hilariously frank raconteur. The book is festooned with eye-popping anecdotes of a pornographic nature. You’ll never look at Buddy Holly the same way again. Flaws and all, this is a rock biography you really must consume.

The Life and Times of Little Richard by Charles White is out on 22 February (Omnibus Press, £16.99). You can buy it from The Big Issue shop on Bookshop.org, which helps to support The Big Issue and independent bookshops.

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