Little Richard, died on Saturday morning at the age of 87, PEOPLE confirmed

By Maria Pasquini
May 09, 2020 12:15 PM
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Celebrities are coming together to mourn the death of Little Richard, who died on Saturday morning at the age of 87.

"Little Richard passed away this morning from bone cancer in Nashville. He was living with his brother in Nashville," his longtime agent Dick Alen confirmed to PEOPLE. "He was battling for a good while, many years. I last spoke to him about two or three weeks ago. I knew he wasn’t well but he never really got into it, he just would say 'I’m not well.' He’s been suffering for many years with various aches and pains. He just wouldn’t talk about it much.”

"From 'Tutti Frutti' to 'Long Tall Sally' to 'Good Golly, Miss Molly' to 'Lucille', Little Richard came screaming into my life when I was a teenager," wrote Paul McCartney. "I owe a lot of what I do to Little Richard and his style; and he knew it. He would say, 'I taught Paul everything he knows.' "

“I’m so saddened to hear about the passing of Little Richard,” Mick Jagger wrote in another tribute. “He was the biggest inspiration of my early teens and his music still has the same raw electric energy when you play it now as it did when it first shot through the music scene in the mid 50’s. When we were on tour with him I would watch his moves every night and learn from his how to entertain and involve the audience and he was always so generous with advice to me."

Added Michelle Obama: "With his exuberance, his creativity, and his refusal to be anything other than himself, Little Richard laid the foundation for generations of artists to follow. We are so lucky to have had him. Sending all my love to his family and friends today.

Little Richard
CBS via Getty Images

Reflecting on Richard's lasting musical contributions, Gene Simmons dedicated his tribute to the “founding Father of Rock And Roll."

"His contributions simply can’t be overstated. I had the honor of meeting Richard in his later years and was awed by his presence. He told me, ‘I am the architect of Rock And Roll.’ Amen!" he added.

“The Originator. The innovator. The musician, performer who influenced generations of artists....has left. You were AWESOME #LittleRichard!!!” actress Viola Davis wrote in another touching tribute. “Your talent will reverberate forever. Well done sir. Rest well.”

"Rest In Peace To One Of The True Creators Of Rock And Roll," added Spike Lee, alongside a commercial he shot with Richard and Michael Jordan back in 1991.

Reflecting on the musician’s legacy, Bette Midler called Richard a “genius, pure and simple.”

“He paved the way for (code for he was ripped off by)so many artists. Watch his YouTube performances to see what I mean. I met him on "Down and Out in Beverly Hills", in which he was hilarious,” he added. “What a legacy. God bless you, Richard.”m

Roy Orbison Jr., son of the late “Pretty Woman” singer, went on to share that he was deeply saddened by the loss of the rock and roll great.

“I am really messed up about this. Can't even explain why. As these 1st generation rock n rollers die, I just feel the earth getting weaker. A strong light burned out today. What a great life and blessing #LittleRichard was. I met him a few times. He made an impact on us all,” he wrote, adding in a separate tribute, “God Bless Little Richard. Our great hero has died today. Our loss. Heaven's Gain.”

Director Ava DuVernay also reflected on the generosity Richard showed her back when she was a college student and he was a frequent guest at the restaurant where she worked.

"I served soul food brunch to Little Richard every Sunday for a year while waitressing at Aunt Kizzy’s Back Porch in LA. I was a college student. He tipped me a crisp $100 bill each week on a $75 breakfast with friends. This was 30 years ago. Helped me so much. God rest his soul," she wrote.

His death was also mourned by Kelvin Holly, a longtime member of the musician's band. "Rest in peace Richard. This one really stings. My thoughts and prayers go out to all of my bandmates and fans all over the world. Richard truly was the king!"

Born Richard Wayne Penniman, the legendary musician rose to fame in the 1950s, and his major hits included classics "Tutti Frutti," "Long Tall Sally" and "Good Golly, Miss Molly.” 

One of the most influential musicians in history, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986 — and just over two decades later, his song “Tutti Frutti” was added to the  U.S. Library of Congress National Recording Registry.