I Am Everything | New Documentary Honors The Life And Legacy Of Rock ‘N’ Roll Legend Little Richard

The 98-minute doc, which premiered in January 2023 at Sundance Film Festival examines the path of trailblazing artist, born Richard Wayne Penniman, from 1930s Macon, Ga., through underground Black drag clubs to segregated concert halls and international fame.

by GRIOT - Published on 05/04/2023
Little Richard. Image via gq

Little Richard needs no introduction, even if you are from Gen Z. Whether listening to one of his hits or standing in front of the picture of the artist wearing his gorgeous sculpted hair, Richard is the evergreen icon who burst onto the music scene in the 1950s and ultimately transformed rock ’n’ roll. Getting his start singing in churches in his hometown of Macon, Georgia, he would write his first hit, Tutti Frutti, while still working as a dishwasher. The song peaked on the charts and turned the artist into an international sensation.

I am Everything: Little Richard tells the story of the music pioneer while simultaneously shedding light on Black queer origins of rock ‘n’ roll, exploding the whitewashed canon of American pop music and culture. Through a wealth of never-seen-before archival footage and performances that bring us into Richard’s complicated inner world, the film unspools the icon’s life story with all its switchbacks and contradictions. The interviews with family, musicians, cutting-edge Black and queer scholars—and notable figures such as Pose’s star Billy Porter, Mick Jagger, John Waters, and Nile Rodgers, among others—reveal how Richard created an art form for ultimate self-expression, yet what he gave to the world he was never able to give to himself. He shattered boundaries and social norms of the time, having a profound impact on the LGBTQ+ community and taking up space in a world that may not have been ready for him. He was bold, and unapologetic, a freedom afforded by music that was withheld from him in his personal life. 

Little Richard influenced a generation of Rock ‘n’ Roll musicians including The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and Elvis Presley, all who recorded covers of his songs. Legendary Elton John also credits Little Richard with being a major influence for him. “I heard Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis and that was it. I didn’t ever want to be anything else,” Elton John told Rolling Stone in 1973.

“What I love is that in the mid-1950s he was saying he was a king. He was claiming a space for him that was denied for most Black people,” director Lisa Cortés told. “It’s a time of Emmett Till’s murder. And Little Richard shows up at the same time declaring himself in a world that can be oftentimes dangerous for non-normative people.”

In 1986, Little Richard made history as one of the first Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees, alongside other icons like Chuck Berry, Ray Charles, James Brown, and Sam Cooke. In 1993, the Grammys awarded him with a Lifetime Achievement Award. The artist passed away in May 2020 at the age of 87. 

Little Richard: I Am Everything is set to hit theaters and streaming on April 21st. Watch the trailer below.

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