New Little Richard Documentary Reveals the Success and Contradictions of His Life and Career
There’s a new documentary coming next month that digs into the life and groundbreaking music career of the late, great Little Richard.
The documentary Little Richard: I Am Everything, from Lisa Cortés, gives an in-depth look into the music icon’s pioneering role in rock n’ roll and his dominance in the American pop music scene, despite the racism and segregation that plagued the nation.
The film made its world premiere at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival and will release in theaters for one night only on April 11, and digitally on April 21, Deadline reported. The Magnolia Pictures documentary tells the story of Black queer origins in Rock n’ Roll and the significance of Little Richard (born Richard Penniman) in the movement.
Little Richard closed out the 1998 film, Why Do Fools Fall In Love demanding his credit as one of the Kings of R&B. While music legends like Elvis Presley, The Beatles, and The Rolling Stones never had to beg for their music to be respected, icons like Little Richard were often overlooked, despite serving as inspiration for the aforementioned.
Hits like Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti,” “Lucille,” and “Long Tall Sally” are regarded as a blueprint for many in rock and roll. The documentary shows archive and performance footage, along with interviews with family, musicians, and Black and queer scholars who tell the story of Richard’s life and music career and the contradictions that came with it.
While Little Richard served as a pioneer of self-expression, the music legend struggled to live in his own truth behind the scenes.
“[What] our film shows, though, is that Richard oftentimes had to proclaim that in what he felt was a void that didn’t recognize his contributions,” Cortes explained.
“And 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. 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.”