Shabazz Larkin 2022

The Little Richard Monument

Here stands a monument to the one and only “Little Richard” Penniman (1932-2020) who broke musical barriers as a piano-pounding, rocking-rolling, screaming-shouting American musician. Little Richard’s charisma and showmanship were unmatched. He is known as the “Architect and Founder of Rock and Roll Music,” not only because he was the first to sing Rock and Roll around the world, but because he gave a generation of rock legends their big breaks, from Jimi Hendrix to Mick Jagger and the Beatles.

At the height of his career in the 1950s, Little Richard was a queer man with a gender-bending performance and flamboyant personality that inspired many other non-binary artists of his time to take the stage as well.

While the adjacent Jubilee Singers’ pillar is stacked and formed from wood to resemble a traditional West African/Yoruba pillar or Native American totem, Little Richard’s pillar is turned on its side and smashed together - unlike any other monument before it.

The sculpture is made of pink, white and gold exotic stones from around the world, a reflection of his larger than life role in changing how music was made forever. The words inscribed into these stones–“WOP BOM A LOO BOP A LOP BAM BOO”–are lyrics from his 1955 breakout hit, “Tutti Frutti,” a song that could be heard in every bar and club on Nashville’s Jefferson Street.

Little Richard was born in Macon, Georgia, where he was given his big break by Sister Rosetta Tharpe. He worked and lived in Nashville, Tennessee, until he passed on in 2020.