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I Don't Know What You've Got (But It's Got Me) - Little Richard

Today is Little Richard's birthday. Sadly we lost him in May of this year so we should remember him before the year closes. Best known as one of the greatest rock and roll singers (if not the greatest) I've always thought of him as a soul singer that sang rock and roll. Just compare him with his contemporary rock and rollers like Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis or Chuck Berry and you'll see what I mean. As the star of pure rock 'n' roll began to wane in the mid sixties - mainly thanks to the success of soul and blues influenced British pop groups such as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones - Richard went back to his roots and tried to resurrect his career by singing soul and gospel music. There's a bit of both here, soul by the bucketful from the third word, a "never" as gravelly as the tarmac on a hot summer's day in Macon, Georgia, to the hoarse frenzy of "sometimes it make me wanna cry" in the last seconds; and gospel in the one minute denunciation of his unfaithful lover bemoaning his infatuation with her, like a Southern Baptist preacher confessing his weaknesses to his congregation on a Sunday morning. And, if the opening notes of "I Don't Know What You've Got (But It's Got Me)" seem distinctive, it could be because they are played by a young Jimi Hendrix, who backed Richard for a three month period in 1965.

In the early sixties the nascent Beatles twice were support to the touring Little Richard, and he took the time to coach both Lennon and McCartney in vocal delivery. Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, Mick Jagger and David Bowie all acknowledge him as one of THE major influences on their work.


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