From left are Jimmy Jam, Dyana Williams, Erica Grayson, Lisa Cortes, and Phylicia Fant at the screening of the Little Richard documentary on June 8 at the Grammy Museum in L.A. (Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)

The Grammy Museum invited the public out on Saturday, June 8 for a screening of the Grammy-nominated documentary and musical “Little Richard: I am Everything.”

The event, held in the Clive Davis Theater, also celebrated June as Black Music Month. Following the screening, a conversation took place with the film’s director and producer, Lisa Cortes, Black Music Month founder Dyana Williams, and Phylicia Fant, head of Amazon Music and veteran multi-hyphenate Erica Grayson.

The program was organized by Gil Robertson IV, president and co-founder of the African American Film Critics Association, along with Cortes and Schyler O’Neal, the Grammy Museum manager of Education and Communication.

The screening did not disappoint by showing Little Richard in all his lively electrifying performances where he revealed \confidence as well as a very vulnerable side.

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“Little Richard was full of contradictions as he had a wife but was [also] a drag queen. However, I am so grateful for Little Richard to be recognized and I hope he inspires us to dance, live our life and not let anyone define us,” Cortes said.

The documentary was nominated for the 2024 Grammy Best Music Film.  Although it didn’t win, the documentary highlighted the importance of Little Richard to Rock and Roll

The documentary begins with Little Richard recalling his life in Macon. “You could see lots of Blacks playing the blues on the guitar as you went down the street and I can remember my mom had 12 kids and she would cook us greens, beans and rice, “ he said.

“My dad was a minister who had a night club where he bootlegged and I too wanted to be a minister,” Little Richard recalled. “We went to the AME Church.  I would sing, but the choir wouldn’t always let me sing because I didn’t know how to stop.”

Remembering how he was bullied by other children and his did, Richard said, “I would put make up and wear my mom’s pins she had pinned to her dresses. My dad didn’t like it and later he threw me out for being gay.”

Although with the success of his music, Richard’s father would later accept him back. Richard would face his own demons as he battled being queer and a Christian.

In October 1947, Sister Rosetta Tharpe overheard 14-year-old Richard singing her songs before a performance at the Macon City Auditorium, and Tharpe invited Richard to open her show. After the show, Tharpe paid Richard thus inspiring Richard to become a professional performer.

The documentary illustrates how Richard influenced such artists as David Bowe, Beatles, and Mick Jagger and how these artists in their own words from footage in the film looked up to him as an artist.

“Esquerita, an American song writer and pianist, taught me everything he knew about playing the piano,” said Richard.

The documentary showcases some of Richards solo hits like “Tutti Frutti” from 1955, which had to be rearranged for its risqué lyrics. In those days, Whites stole songs from Black artist and made them their own.  Pat Boone would do a version of Richards song “Tutti Frutti.”

Over the years, Richard would struggle with his sexuality and at one point left secular music to do work in ministry and he married Ernestine Harvin in 1959. Richard wanted to keep his family in the home he purchased in Riverside California and later returned to secular music to provide for his family.

Little Richard had such songs as “Long Tall Sally,” “Good Golly Miss Molly,” “Slippin’ and Slidin,’” and also “Lucille.”

Richard was in the first class of Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees in 1986 and received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1993.  Richard, an American Icon, song writer and pianist, passed away May 9, 2020, at age 87.HH

Following the documentary, the panel discussed how Blacks often had their music stolen and were not always paid fairly.

To learn more about events at the Grammy Museum, call (213) 725-5700.