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Can't Believe You Wanna Leave - Little Richard

Very sad news. Little Richard died on Saturday. A magnificent rock 'n' roll innovator, his influence on just about everyone's vocal styles and stage presentation in the late fifties and all through the sixties is unmistakable, if often underrated. He should also be seen as an early soul singer and it's in his slower numbers that the soulfulness of his vocals really comes to the fore. Here is a track from his first album, released in 1957. It's a New Orleans style "walking" song, but the languid vocal belies the vigour, the marvellous timing and the sheer variety of the noises that he uses to add expression to the lyrics, especially the yelps at the end of most lines, getting stronger as the song progresses, and the rasping emphasis he gives to the lower notes, suggest that the absence of "all the love we shared, and all the fun we had" is going to hurt him physically as well as emotionally. The great singers have the same gift that the great sports men and women have: timing. This may may be a slow song, but it's in the slow songs that there's the space to get it wrong, and the journeyman singer is shown up. Here, Little Richard's phrasing is perfect - he has so much time - as the equally languid and lilting sax solo by the great Lee Allen emphasises, the two carrying on the smokin' conversation at the same pitch.

"My life, my heart, my love

is in your hands,

and now you're gonna leave me,

you're gonna leave for another man."

Maybe she just couldn't cope with his passion.

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