Books

Little Richard: The Birth of Rock 'n' Roll

David Kirby's book asserts that ″A-wop-bop-a-loo-mop-a-lop-bam-boom″ was the cry that not only birthed rock 'n' roll, but created an entirely new world in its wake.


Little Richard: The Birth of Rock 'n' Roll

Publisher: Continuum
Length: 218 pages
Author: David Kirby
Price: $19.95
Format: Hardcover
Publication date: 2009-11
Amazon

David Kirby's Little Richard: The Birth of Rock 'n' Roll is not a biography of Little Richard. Nor is it, as its subtitle could suggest, strictly a historical recounting of the genesis of the world's most popular musical art form. No, it's more of an extended essay exploring the inextricable links between the two. It's also an unabashedly biased ode to ″Tutti Frutti″.

Though he also pays respects to Little Richard's other seminal work on Specialty Records in the mid-50s, Kirby's true love is for the two-minutes-and-55-seconds of raw, aural energy that is ″Tutti Frutti″. His primary assertion in Little Richard: The Birth of Rock 'n' Roll is that ″A-wop-bop-a-loo-mop-a-lop-bam-boom″ was the shout heard 'round the world, and that it triggered an entirely new revolution in America.

Varying personal opinions and concurrent musical contributions aside, he's probably right. ″Tutti Frutti″ probably is the one song in which all the elements initially coalesced in proper combination, the single spark from which all that became the flames of rock 'n' roll were coaxed. That would make Richard Wayne Penniman of Macon, Georgia the torchbearer. Doesn't have quite the right ring to it -- however apt the visual image -- does it? That's why Little Richard is ″The Architect of Rock 'n' Roll″. Because he designed it, damn it! He built it, brick by brick and beat by beat! Who could have imagined it, huh? An entire empire founded on a dirty little ditty with a nonsense name. That's rock 'n' roll.

At least that's the way Kirby sees it throughout this endearingly informal rambling across the pasts and presents of Little Richard, Macon, rock music and what Greil Marcus refers to as ″Old, Weird America″. In fact, his tale of his relationship with this music and the world it created is a bit like the song he singles out. Fast, loose, and full of energy; short, sweet and undeniably stirring; kind of scatter-shot, a little bit repetitive and a whole lot of Little Richard. It's an almost irresistible book, mainly because Kirby's affection is so apparent as to be infectious.

However, he does get a bit redundant at times with certain information, particularly when he's quoting other works. Though occasionally annoying, it's a forgivable flaw in an otherwise rollicking read. The repetition could even be considered a part of Little Richard's charm. It's cyclical like some late night conversation with friends in which you're arguing the merits of your personal favorite performer and your naturally keep coming back to their greatest accomplishments to make your case.

Kirby certainly does a convincing job of supporting his argument. Whether you're a die-hard Little Richard fan already, or you just know him for his ″whoooo!″ and the makeup; whether you think Elvis is The King, or that The Killer was the real wild one of rock and roll, you'll come away from Little Richard: The Birth of Rock 'n' Roll believing Little Richard was indeed the man who started it all.

6
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Books

How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.

Film

From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?

Music

The 50 Best Songs of 2007

Journey back 13 years to a stellar year for Rihanna, M.I.A., Arcade Fire, and Kanye West. From hip-hop to indie rock and everywhere in between, PopMatters picks the best 50 songs of 2007.

Music

'Modern' Is the Pinnacle of Post-Comeback Buzzcocks' Records

Presented as part of the new Buzzcocks' box-set, Sell You Everything, Modern showed a band that wasn't interested in just repeating itself or playing to nostalgia.

Music

​Nearly 50 and Nearly Unplugged: 'ChangesNowBowie' Is a Glimpse Into a Brilliant Mind

Nine tracks, recorded by the BBC in 1996 show David Bowie in a relaxed and playful mood. ChangesNowBowie is a glimpse into a brilliant mind.

Music

Reaching for the Sky: An Interview with Singer-Songwriter Bruce Sudano

How did Bruce Sudano become a superhero? PopMatters has the answer as Sudano celebrates the release of Spirals and reflects on his career from Brooklyn Dreams to Broadway.

Music

Inventions Conjure Mystery and Hope with the Intensely Creative 'Continuous Portrait'

Instrumental duo Matthew Robert Cooper (Eluvium) and Mark T. Smith (Explosions in the Sky) release their first album in five years as Inventions. Continuous Portrait is both sonically thrilling and oddly soothing.

Music

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch Are 'Live at the Village Vanguard' to Raise Money for Musicians

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch release a live recording from a 2018 show to raise money for a good cause: other jazz musicians.

Music

Lady Gaga's 'Chromatica' Hides Its True Intentions Behind Dancefloor Exuberance

Lady Gaga's Chromatica is the most lively and consistent record she's made since Born This Way, embracing everything great about her dance-pop early days and giving it a fresh twist.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Street Art As Sprayed Solidarity: Global Corona Graffiti

COVID-19-related street art functions as a vehicle for political critique and social engagement. It offers a form of global solidarity in a time of crisis.

Music

Gretchen Peters Honors Mickey Newbury With "The Sailor" and New Album (premiere + interview)

Gretchen Peters' latest album, The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury, celebrates one of American songwriting's most underappreciated artists. Hear Peters' new single "The Sailor" as she talks about her latest project.

Music

Okkyung Lee Goes From Classical to Noise on the Stellar 'Yeo-Neun'

Cellist Okkyung Lee walks a fine line between classical and noise on the splendid, minimalist excursion Yeo-Neun.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.