Rock 'n' roll pioneer Little Richard died Saturday, his close friend, Pastor Bill Minson, told The Associated Press. The musician's son, Danny Jones Penniman, confirmed the news, but the cause of death is unknown. He was 87.
Little Richard, born Richard Penniman, considered himself the "architect" of the music genre known as rock 'n' roll, and he — along with the likes of Chuck Berry and Fats Domino — helped shatter the color line on music charts, bringing what was once called "race music" into the mainstream, AP reports. Richard was known for his skills on the piano and his distinctive vocals, as well as fashion choices and energetic personality on-stage.
Richard's career took off in the '50s, and he went on to sell more than 30 million records worldwide, produce hit songs like "Tutti Frutti," "Good Golly Miss Molly," and "Long Tall Sally," and influence countless musicians, including the Beatles.
In 1957, he stepped away from the stage and became an ordained minister, eventually releasing a gospel album in 1959. He returned to secular rock in 1964. Read more at Rolling Stone and The Associated Press.