Sunday, May 31, 2020

How you can be against both police brutality and riots

Saying the rioting and looting that's been going on in multiple cities is "about" the police killing George Floyd on May 25, 2020 is like saying the Iraq War is "about" terrorists killing 3,000 people on September 11, 2001. Excusing the rioting on the basis that the rioters are supposedly driven by good intentions and opposition to racism, and that they're rightly angry about police brutality, is like excusing Bush by saying he was supposedly driven by good intentions and opposition to tyranny, and he was rightly angry about terrorism. (I'm assuming for the sake of argument that all the rioters are truly concerned about police brutality; for instance, I'm not addressing reports that white supremacists are suspected of getting into the act.)

Don't believe what people say about their justifications for violence. Don't accept a framing that glorifies violence and presents it as deeply expressive. That's just asking to be fooled into accepting violence that isn't really justified.

Note: I haven't said that rioting can never lead to a good outcome, just as I wouldn't deny that some wars are justified. We could go on and on about this: maybe these riots will turn out to be worth it because they'll stop police brutality, and maybe invading Afghanistan was worth it because it stopped al Qaeda, and maybe World War II was worth it because it stopped Hitler, etc., etc. But we should at least be highly skeptical of claims that riots or wars are justified, because most of them aren't. The mistake is in readily endorsing or excusing mass violence whenever it feels like it's resonating with your political values. I'm not saying never excuse violence; I'm saying don't do it easily, glibly, without looking closely and in detail at the real suffering it's causing. I don't mean just skimming a news article or reading some statistics, but watching and listening to specific individuals talking about how their lives have been harmed. Do it only reluctantly and after sober reflection.

When I posted the above on Facebook, Ann Althouse (my mom) said:

Portraying The Other as instinctively propelled toward violence is racist. Please be more cautious in your efforts at appearing to be one of the good white people.
Yes, when I see people who have young kids and are supporting the rioters, I want to ask them: would you accept this from your own children? Would you accept your kids trying to burn down your house, and using the excuse that he or she is mad about bullies who hurt someone else at school? People are having lower standards for rioting adults than they’d have for young children.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

On pandemics and hippies

A good point by Matt K. Lewis — I hadn't thought of this connection between the current pandemic, past crises, and the '60s backlash against hippies, but it makes sense:

Let’s suppose you were born in 1911, as were two of my grandparents. You survived the Great Influenza, the Great Depression, and World War II—all by the time you hit your early 30s.

Think this might influence your political worldview for… oh, I don’t know, THE REST OF YOUR LIFE?

This realization has only hit me, recently, as I contemplate how COVID-19 might influence our politics, going forward.

Some of my grandparents’ traditions and hang-ups were, no doubt, the result of a lack of education. But many of the things they believed were the very logical conclusions almost anyone might arrive at, had they lived through a pandemic, a Great Depression, and two world wars.

You might be more fearful of disease. This might lead you to be very skeptical of foreigners. You might be worried that a new depression is around every corner. These experiences might lead to both positive and negative externalities. But one thing’s for sure: they would definitively inform your lifestyle, customs, and politics.

Growing up, I was always curious about why their generation paid so much attention to the grooming habits of “dirty, long-haired hippies.” This always struck me as weird and overcritical. Didn’t they worship a dude with long hair and sandals? Now, in post COVID-19 world, I think I better understand their emphasis on cleanliness.

Of course, not everyone who came out of that experience embraced a cautious, conservative lifestyle. Experience informs our worldview, but it turns out that some of this is hardwired. A pretty famous Cornell University study suggests conservatives are more sensitive to images they perceive to be gross or disgusting than are progressives.

In a recent column for Vox, Ezra Klein contrasted the two political camps:
Some people are innately more suspicious of change, of outsiders, of novelty. That base orientation will nudge them toward living in the town where they grew up, eating the foods they know and love, worshipping in the church their parents attended. It will also nudge them toward political conservatism.

The reverse is true, too. Some people are naturally more oriented toward newness, toward diversity, toward disruption. That base orientation will push them to live in big cities, try exotic foods, travel widely, appreciate weird art, sample different spiritualities. It will also nudge them toward political liberalism.
This view strikes me as plausible, which is why our current political debate is so disconcerting.

If you want to be reminded of how powerful a drug partisanship is, consider that it is, ostensibly, conservatives who think fears about COVID-19 are overblown.

On the basis of these descriptions, today’s conservatives and progressives appear to have pulled a Freaky Friday and reversed their roles. Conservatives should be the ones panicking about COVID-19, while progressives should be placating the masses and saying that the concern is overblown.…

Monday, May 25, 2020

Should you wear a hazmat suit on a plane?

The Washington Post has an article on that question:

Last year, supermodel Naomi Campbell made headlines when she shared a video of herself very thoroughly sanitizing her Qatar Airlines seat. There were disinfecting wipes involved, plastic gloves and a face mask.

And that was before the coronavirus pandemic.

With the world battling a highly contagious global health threat, Campbell has taken her in-flight hygiene habits a step further by wearing a hazmat suit on board.…



A post shared by Naomi Campbell (@naomi) on

Disposable PPE suits can cost less than $20 online, but health experts aren’t advocating wearing them on planes during the pandemic.

“Wearing a hazmat suit on an airplane is unnecessary and could cause undue concern for other travelers,” Scott Pauley, a press officer for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told The Washington Post by email.…

According to Adrian Hyzler, chief medical officer for Healix International, a company specializing in security and international medical and travel-assistance services, neither the European Union Airline Safety Association (EASA) nor the International Air Transport Association (IATA) recommends hazmat suits for airline crew unless they’re dealing with sick passengers.

Hyzler said one concern with wearing hazmat suits is improperly getting out of them. If there’s any trace of the coronavirus on the suit, wearers may come into contact with it as they take off their PPE.

The CDC did say recently, “coronavirus primarily spreads from person to person and not easily from a contaminated surface,” The Washington Post reported.

Another issue is they can give the wearer a false sense of security.

“This is something with all PPE that makes the wearer think that they are somehow better protected,” Hyzler said.
But wait, there's something weird about arguing that hazmat suits shouldn't be worn because they could give you "a false sense of security." That seems like an all-purpose reason not to take just about any safety measures. The government used to say that's a reason not to wear masks, until the government started saying we need to wear masks.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

I want to get back to the time…

I want to get back to the time when one of the most burning issues in America was which old statues to replace with new statues.

UPDATE: Never mind…

Friday, May 22, 2020

“If this policy saves even one life...”

“If this policy saves even one life, then it was all worth it.”

“No, if this policy saves only one life while having massive negative consequences for many people, then we should find a more effective policy.”

* * *

That's an imagined dialogue I just made up, not quoting anyone in particular. And here’s a relevant article. Excerpt:

When politicians say, “If it saves just one life,” they can appear to care deeply while simultaneously absolving themselves of the responsibility of crafting a rational response to a difficult issue. It allows them to trade on emotions instead of facts.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Why Biden will choose Klobuchar

I expect Joe Biden's running mate to be Amy Klobuchar, the 60-year-old Senator from Minnesota, which borders my home state of Wisconsin. Wisconsin was one of the 3 states that determined the 2016 election, all of which voted for Trump by a margin of less than 1% (the others were Michigan and Pennsylvania). And Wisconsin is said to be the one state in the country that's most likely to make the difference in who wins the presidency.

Klobuchar's many debate performances showed that she has a command of the issues, strong rhetorical skills, and an ability to humanize herself and use humor effectively. Klobuchar wasn't considered a top-tier candidate while she was struggling to stand out among an unusually crowded Democratic field that included some flashier candidates, but she won't have that problem as running mate. Biden will be well aware that Klobuchar exceeded expectations when people started voting in the primaries, and at first seemed to be doing better than Biden (who is reportedly in the process of vetting Klobuchar).

The most commonly mentioned alternatives are Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and Stacey Abrams, but Biden will have reasons to pass over them.

I don't believe the betting markets saying that Harris is the most likely running mate. Biden will look at her 2020 campaign as the best evidence of what she'd be like on the trail, and Harris did a remarkably bad job of campaigning. This isn't just 20/20 hindsight now that we know she lost. She started with one attention-getting debate moment which should have been a boon to her campaign — but instead of building on all that positive media attention, her support went steadily downhill. She flip-flopped and failed to articulate a clear rationale for her campaign. When Tulsi Gabbard used a whole debate answer to launch a well-prepared attack on numerous aspects of Harris's record, Harris failed to come back with a strong defense of her career as a prosecutor. Considering how badly Biden needs assistance in the areas of communication and political skills, Harris isn't the running mate for Biden.

Warren's campaign proposals suggested that she would've been the most left-leaning president in generations, if not all of American history. Whatever her strengths, she would be ideologically incompatible with the relatively centrist Biden.

All other things being equal, Republicans would rather run against a Senator from Massachusetts (Warren) or California (Harris) than a Midwestern Senator like Klobuchar.

I don't know as much about Abrams, but a state legislature would seem to be weak experience for being president, since it's lacking in both executive experience (unlike a governor) and national experience (unlike a Senator).

When I wrote the above on Facebook, a commenter responded that Biden can't pick a white woman. The idea that Biden simply cannot choose a white woman implies that the running mate's race will be not just important, but so important as to overshadow all other factors. I've seen people implicitly making that assumption, but I haven't seen anyone make an argument for that view. (Even if my Klobuchar prediction is wrong and Biden ends up choosing a black woman, I still wouldn't be convinced that race was such an overwhelming factor; I'd assume he made the decision based on looking at many factors.)

More broadly, I've noticed that arguments that the presidential election will come down to one specific demographic group (e.g. race, gender, income) are often made before an election … but once the election happens, the most compelling analysis usually isn't limited to any one group of Americans. The analysis ends up involving a broader look at which candidate made the most compelling case to America as a whole. I expect Biden to think more in those terms, than in terms of persuading a specific group.




(Amy Klobuchar, her husband, and their daughter. Photo by Lorie Shaull, from Wikimedia Commons.)

How the CDC is distorting covid-19 test results and "the state of the pandemic"

The Atlantic reports (this article shouldn't count against your monthly limit of Atlantic articles if you don't subscribe):

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is conflating the results of two different types of coronavirus tests, distorting several important metrics and providing the country with an inaccurate picture of the state of the pandemic.

We’ve learned that the CDC is making … a debilitating mistake: combining test results that diagnose current coronavirus infections with test results that measure whether someone has ever had the virus. The upshot is that the government’s disease-fighting agency is overstating the country’s ability to test people who are sick with COVID-19.

The agency confirmed to The Atlantic on Wednesday that it is mixing the results of viral and antibody tests, even though the two tests reveal different information and are used for different reasons.

This is not merely a technical error. States have set quantitative guidelines for reopening their economies based on these flawed data points. Several states—including Pennsylvania, the site of one of the country’s largest outbreaks, as well as Texas, Georgia, and Vermont—are blending the data in the same way.

Virginia likewise mixed viral and antibody test results until last week, but it reversed course and the governor apologized for the practice after it was covered by the Richmond Times-Dispatch and The Atlantic.… Vermont authorities claimed they didn’t even know they were doing this.

The widespread use of the practice means that it remains difficult to know exactly how much the country’s ability to test people who are actively sick with COVID-19 has improved.…

A negative test result means something different for each test. If somebody tests negative on a viral test, a doctor can be relatively confident that they are not sick right now; if somebody tests negative on an antibody test, they have probably never been infected with or exposed to the coronavirus. (Or they may have been given a false result—antibody tests are notoriously less accurate on an individual level than viral tests.) The problem is that the CDC is clumping negative results from both tests together in its public reporting.

Mixing the two tests makes it much harder to understand the meaning of positive tests, and it clouds important information about the U.S. response to the pandemic.…

Kristen Nordlund, a spokesperson for the CDC, told us that the inclusion of antibody data in Florida is one reason the CDC has reported hundreds of thousands more tests in Florida than the state government has. The agency hopes to separate the viral and antibody test results in the next few weeks, she said in an email.

Wait, the CDC merely "hopes" to fix this "in a few weeks"? Do they plan to leave the mistake online until then? How can they not fix this today?

This is why we shouldn't just "trust the experts."

Saturday, May 16, 2020

If you’ve said both of these things ...

If you’ve said both of these things ...

• “I’m not gonna wear a mask — 😷 doesn’t look cool, and besides, we’ve all gotta go someday.”  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

• “I want to carry a gun around so I can save people from a mass shooting.”
... then maybe your real goal isn’t protecting people.

ADDED: I rejected a comment because it was written with an inappropriate username that I'm not willing to have on my website. Also, the comment incorrectly assumed that this post is talking about people who are carrying guns while protesting the lockdown, and then criticized me for supposedly believing that they're trying to stop mass shootings. Well, no, I didn't say anything like that — this post isn't about those protesters.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Stevie Wonder turns 70 🕶

Happy 70th birthday to Stevie Wonder!

When I posted a list of "my top 20 favorite albums" with a rule of no more than one album per artist, it was a no-brainer to include a Stevie Wonder album. The hard part was deciding which one.

His string of 5 albums from 1972 to 1976 is probably one of the greatest things that's ever happened in music history.

At the end of this post, I've embedded one song from each of those albums, without including any of the hits, because he's about so much more than the hits. He's one of those artists where you have to listen to the full albums from start to finish. Of course he put out a lot of great songs before and after the 1972-76 albums, but those albums stand out. Of all the dozens and dozens of songs on those albums, there isn't a single dud, and there are many buried treasures.

His music from the '60s onward still holds up well as a pure listening experience, with no need to explain why we should appreciate it or how he fits into the history of anything. At the same time, he's had a ubiquitous influence on the last 50 years of music — so many artists like Prince, Alicia Keys, Justin Timberlake, Lady Gaga, Beyonce, etc. It's hard to imagine what pop music would sound like without him.

The combination of songwriting and performing is astounding. Not only did he develop a style of melismatic singing that generations have imitated, but he's also an excellent keyboardist, harmonica player, and drummer.

He's done all that with a physical condition many of us would think of as bringing unfathomable misery to anyone who suffers from it. Yet Stevie Wonder gives the impression that an effusive, impassioned joy flows out of him more naturally than from almost anyone else.

Isn't he lovely? Isn't he wonderful?


"Too High" from Innervisions (1973):




"Girl Blue" from Music in My Mind (1972):




"You Haven't Done Nothin'" from Fulfillingness' First Finale (1974):




Jeff Beck does some great guitar playing on "Lookin' for Another Pure Love" from Talking Book (1972):




"Joy Inside My Tears," from his double album, Songs in the Key of Life (1976):

"Bernie Sanders has Red Hot Chili Peppers and Prince merchandise hanging in his office"

NME reports that while Sen. Bernie Sanders was participating in a Senate committee meeting, the background of his video at home showed "a bass drum head from Prince’s backing band the New Power Generation and a framed Red Hot Chili Peppers tour poster."

I'll bet his favorite Red Hot Chili Peppers song is "Give It Away" and his favorite Prince song is "Free."

Monday, May 11, 2020

Kurt Cobain's guitar from Nirvana Unplugged is being sold

"The guitar Kurt Cobain played during Nirvana’s famed MTV Unplugged in New York concert is headed to auction with a starting estimate of $1 million," Rolling Stone reports. He played a used Martin acoustic guitar from 1959.

During Unplugged, Kurt Cobain told the audience about how he wanted to buy a guitar that belonged to Lead Belly, calling him "my favorite performer." (Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic joked that the band would pass around a "donation basket.") Here’s the Lead Belly song Nirvana played at the end of Unplugged, "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?" I love the moment at 4:50 when the music stops near the end of the song, and while Cobain is catching his breath he has a look in his eyes as if he's suddenly grasped the whole weight of human existence.




Here's Lead Belly's version of that traditional folk song (also known as "In the Pines"):

2 months 😷👍🏻

It's been exactly 2 months since I've (a) used any transportation except walking, or (b) had any in-person social interactions aside from basic communications with customer-service workers — and reminding people around my apartment building not to hold the door open for me because it would cause us to get within less than 6 feet of each other.

If you had told me in February 2020 that I'd be writing that sentence later in 2020, what would I have thought?

Jerry Stiller, who played Frank Costanza on Seinfeld, has died at 92

The New York Times reports:

Jerry Stiller, a classically trained actor who became a comedy star twice — in the 1960s in partnership with his wife, Anne Meara, and in the 1990s with a memorable recurring role on “Seinfeld” — has died. He was 92.

His death was announced on Monday on Twitter by his son, the actor Ben Stiller, who did not specify the cause.…

He appeared on Broadway in Terrence McNally’s frantic farce “The Ritz” in 1975 and David Rabe’s dark drama “Hurlyburly” in 1984. Off Broadway, he was in “The Threepenny Opera”; in Central Park, he played Shakespearean clowns for Joseph Papp; onscreen, he was seen as, among other things, a police detective in “The Taking of Pelham One, Two, Three” (1974) and Divine’s husband in John Waters’s “Hairspray” (1988). But he was best known as a comedian.

The team of Stiller and Meara was for many years a familiar presence in nightclubs, on television variety and talk shows, and in radio and television commercials, most memorably for Blue Nun wine and Amalgamated Bank.

Years after the act broke up, Mr. Stiller captured a new generation of fans as Frank Costanza, the short-tempered and not entirely sane father of Jason Alexander’s George, on the NBC series “Seinfeld,” one of the most successful television comedies of all time.

Mr. Stiller was in fewer than 30 of the 180 episodes of “Seinfeld,” whose nine seasons began in 1989, and he did not make his first appearance until the fifth season. (Another actor appeared as Frank in one episode of Season 4, although his scenes were later reshot with Mr. Stiller for the syndicated reruns.) But he was an essential part of the show’s enduring appeal. He was nominated for an Emmy in 1997.

Frank Costanza was a classic sitcom eccentric whose many dubious accomplishments included marketing a brassiere for men and creating Festivus, a winter holiday “for the rest of us” celebrated with tests of strength and other bizarre rituals.

His most noteworthy characteristic was his explosive, often irrational anger, and most of the episodes on which he was featured found him, sooner or later, yelling, usually at either his son; his wife, Estelle, played by Estelle Harris; or both.

When I ranked my 20 favorite Seinfeld episodes, my #3 choice was an episode with Jerry Stiller: "The Opposite."

Jerry Stiller tells the amazing story of how he invented his character of Frank Costanza by showing up on his first day and doing the opposite of what he had been told to do:




More from the obit:
Gerald Isaac Stiller was born in Brooklyn on June 8, 1927, the first of four children born to William Stiller, the son of immigrants from Galicia, and Bella (Citron) Stiller, who was born in Poland. His father drove a taxi and later a bus. His mother was a homemaker.

After serving in the Army during and immediately after World War II, he studied theater at Syracuse University under the G.I. Bill, learning about Greek tragedy and Shakespearean drama from the celebrated teacher Sawyer Falk. He began working in summer stock almost immediately after graduating in 1950, and was appearing Off Broadway a few years later.

Mr. Stiller remained active throughout his 80s. He was typically manic in a series of commercials for Capital One Bank, seen on television and heard on radio in 2012.…

In 2016, he reprised the role of the agent Maury Ballstein in “Zoolander 2,” the sequel to the hit 2001 comedy about a male model, starring and directed by his son.

“I’ve never thought of stopping,” Mr. Stiller told The Daily News of New York in 2012. “The only time you ever stop working is when they don’t call you.”

Some of his most dramatic acting on Seinfeld was in the episode where he was asked to cook for a Jewish social function:




The end of his New York Times obituary is very meta:
Mr. Stiller and Ms. Meara’s swan song as a team was a series of web-only video clips produced by their son and posted from November 2010 until March 2011. Each clip lasts about two minutes and consists of the two of them discussing a single topic. One topic is obituaries.

In that clip, Mr. Stiller says he is “shocked” that The New York Times might have already prepared their obituaries and wonders whether the newspaper is “up to date” on his having worked with Veronica Lake in a production of “Peter Pan” (about six decades earlier). And Ms. Meara reveals that years ago Mr. Stiller had persuaded The Times to publish her father’s obituary by falsely claiming that he had written material for their comedy act.

Mr. Stiller’s agitated response: “What you just said is going to get us in trouble with The New York Times! I may never get an obit!”

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Little Richard (1932 - 2020) 🎹

Little Richard has died at age 87.

Here he is playing some of his great songs in 1972, starting with my favorite, "Lucille," and then "Rip It Up," "Good Golly Miss Molly," "Tutti Frutti," and "Jenny Jenny."




Rolling Stone lists his "20 Essential Songs."

The New York Times says:

Richard Penniman, better known as Little Richard, who combined the sacred shouts of the black church and the profane sounds of the blues to create some of the world’s first and most influential rock ’n’ roll records, died on Saturday morning. He was 87.…

Little Richard did not invent rock ’n’ roll. Other musicians had already been mining a similar vein by the time he recorded his first hit, “Tutti Frutti” — a raucous song about sex, its lyrics cleaned up but its meaning hard to miss — in a New Orleans recording studio in September 1955. Chuck Berry and Fats Domino had reached the pop Top 10, Bo Diddley had topped the rhythm-and-blues charts, and Elvis Presley had been making records for a year.

But Little Richard, delving deeply into the wellsprings of gospel music and the blues, pounding the piano furiously and screaming as if for his very life, raised the energy level several notches and created something not quite like any music that had been heard before — something new, thrilling and more than a little dangerous. As the rock historian Richie Unterberger put it, “He was crucial in upping the voltage from high-powered R&B into the similar, yet different, guise of rock ’n’ roll.”

Art Rupe of Specialty Records, the label for which he recorded his biggest hits, called Little Richard “dynamic, completely uninhibited, unpredictable, wild.”

“Tutti Frutti” rocketed up the charts and was quickly followed by “Long Tall Sally” and other records now acknowledged as classics. His live performances were electrifying.

“He’d just burst onto the stage from anywhere, and you wouldn’t be able to hear anything but the roar of the audience,” the record producer and arranger H.B. Barnum, who played saxophone with Little Richard early in his career, recalled in “The Life and Times of Little Richard” (1984), an authorized biography by Charles White. “He’d be on the stage, he’d be off the stage, he’d be jumping and yelling, screaming, whipping the audience on.”




More from NYT:
Rock ’n’ roll was an unabashedly macho music in its early days, but Little Richard, who had performed in drag as a teenager, presented a very different picture onstage: gaudily dressed, his hair piled six inches high, his face aglow with cinematic makeup. He was fond of saying in later years that if Elvis was the king of rock ’n’ roll, he was the queen. Offstage, he characterized himself variously as gay, bisexual and “omnisexual.”

His influence as a performer was immeasurable. It could be seen and heard in the flamboyant showmanship of James Brown, who idolized him (and used some of his musicians when Little Richard began a long hiatus from performing in 1957), and of Prince, whose ambisexual image owed a major debt to his.

Presley recorded his songs. The Beatles adopted his trademark sound, an octave-leaping exultation: “Woooo!” (Paul McCartney said that the first song he ever sang in public was “Long Tall Sally,” which he later recorded with the Beatles.)

The Beatles' "I'm Down" was McCartney's homage to Little Richard:



The obit on Little Richard's racial significance:
“I’ve always thought that rock ’n’ roll brought the races together,” Mr. White quoted him as saying. “Especially being from the South, where you see the barriers, having all these people who we thought hated us showing all this love.”

Mr. Barnum told Mr. White that “they still had the audiences segregated” at concerts in the South in those days, but that when Little Richard performed, “most times, before the end of the night, they would all be mixed together.”

If uniting black and white audiences was a point of pride for Little Richard, it was a cause of concern for others, especially in the South. The White Citizens Council of North Alabama issued a denunciation of rock ’n’ roll largely because it brought “people of both races together.” And with many radio stations under pressure to keep black music off the air, Pat Boone’s cleaned-up, toned-down version of “Tutti Frutti” was a bigger hit than Little Richard’s original. (He also had a hit with “Long Tall Sally.”)




Most of Little Richard's songs fit the same template of upbeat rock over a 12-bar blues, but he slowed things down on "Send Me Some Lovin'":




NYT on how Little Richard got started (of course, read the whole obit for more of his life story):
Richard Wayne Penniman was born in Macon, Ga., on Dec. 5, 1932, the third of 12 children born to Charles and Leva Mae (Stewart) Penniman.… An uncle, a cousin and a grandfather were preachers, and as a boy he attended Seventh-day Adventist, Baptist and Holiness churches and aspired to be a singing evangelist. An early influence was the gospel singer and guitarist Sister Rosetta Tharpe, one of the first performers to combine a religious message with the urgency of R&B.

By the time he was in his teens, Richard’s ambition had taken a detour. He left home and began performing with traveling medicine and minstrel shows, part of a 19th-century tradition that was dying out. By 1948, billed as Little Richard — the name was a reference to his youth and not his physical stature — he was a cross-dressing performer with a minstrel troupe called Sugarfoot Sam From Alabam, which had been touring for decades.

In 1951, while singing alongside strippers, comics and drag queens on the Decataur Street strip in Atlanta, he recorded his first songs. The records were generic R&B, with no distinct style.…

Around this time, he met two performers whose look and sound would have a profound impact on his own: Billy Wright and S.Q. Reeder, who performed and recorded as Esquerita. They were both accomplished pianists, flashy dressers, flamboyant entertainers and as openly gay as it was possible to be in the South in the 1950s.

His break came in 1955, when Mr. Rupe signed him to Specialty and arranged for him to record with local musicians in New Orleans. During a break at that session, he began singing a raucous but obscene song that Mr. Rupe thought had the potential to capture the nascent teenage record-buying audience. Mr. Rupe enlisted a New Orleans songwriter, Dorothy LaBostrie, to clean up the lyrics; the song became “Tutti Frutti”; and a rock ’n’ roll star was born.…

Rolling Stone quotes Elton John in 1973:
“I heard Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis, and that was it.… I didn’t ever want to be anything else. I’m more of a Little Richard stylist than a Jerry Lee Lewis, I think. Jerry Lee is a very intricate piano player and very skillful, but Little Richard is more of a pounder.”
Here's "Crocodile Rock," Elton John's tribute to early rock 'n' roll. You can particularly hear Little Richard's influence when he screams: "Oh, lordy, Mama! Those Friday nights!"




When Prince died in 2016, I wrote: "Prince is often said to have been inspired by James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Sly & the Family Stone, and many others. One influence that shouldn't be overlooked is Little Richard, one of the greatest singers, songwriters, and pianists of the early days of rock 'n' roll."

A 2004 Prince concert review elaborated on this:
Prince proved at his St. Pete Times Forum performance Monday that he's the soulful link between the pioneers of R&B music, guys such as Little Richard and James Brown, and modern funky hitmakers....

Brown, Little Richard and Chuck Berry were never known for their modesty. Like Muhammad Ali, they knew they were the greatest. So does Prince.

And like Little Richard, Prince knows he's pretty.

"I wrote this song looking in the mirror," Prince said, grinning, while performing an acoustic version of Cream. Prince, who was wearing about as much foundation and mascara as Little Richard would, told the crowd that while others may need to go to the psychiatrist for comfort, all he needs to do is write perfect pop songs and look at himself in the mirror to be happy. Then he squealed into laughter.

Not to mention Prince's androgyny. Like Little Richard, Prince has always toyed with gender roles. An African-American man wearing a faceful of makeup? Lasciviously licking his lips - and guitar strings - onstage and in his videos? Strutting around in high-heeled boots, in sequined purple coats? ...

On Monday, Prince dazzled the crowd for nearly 2-1/2 hours, singing, dancing, swiveling his hips, then grabbing his guitar to shred out piercing notes.

The star teased the audience, camped it up, strutted his funky, 5-foot-2 body, batted his eyelashes, jammed with his band, cajoled them like they were pals.

Prince was the link between old school and the new. Would we have some of today's brightest, most talented stars without his influence?




When you consider how much music has been inspired not only by Little Richard but also by Prince, Elton John, the Beatles … you start to appreciate the full, staggering impact of Little Richard.



You gave me such a wonderful start!