A Lop Bam Boom!

Poet David Kirby crafts a righteous paean to Little Richard.

Book Cover David Kirby (The House on Boulevard St.: New and Selected Poems), who is a poet by profession (as in calling, not career), put together an extended hagiographic essay on the life of one Richard Wayne Penniman, Little Richard: The Birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll (CONTINUUM BOOKS)—Richard, a favorite son of Macon, Ga., and arguably one of the pioneers in the early fifties of the devil’s music known as rock.

The 1955 release of the 45-rpm record (known then as a single) “Tutti Frutti” propelled Little Richard into the mainsteam, meaning he crossed over to Top 40 radio and was allowed to play for white kids. Beginning with the nonsense syllables “A-wop-bop-a-loo-mop-a-lop-bam-boom!”, Kirby opines, “There is a single greatest rock record, and this is it.”

When Keith Richards heard “Tutti Frutti” for the first time, he recalls, “it was as though the world changed suddenly from monochrome to Technicolor.” The inestimable Greil Marcus is also quoted: “Tutti Frutti” made “a breach in the known world.” No doubt this is a widely held sentiment, as the song is on more than a few lists of the most influential records (in 2007, “Tutti Frutti,” topped Mojo magazine’s list of “100 Records That Changed the World”).

Though he has done some research, interviewing people in Macon and establishing a useful sketch of Penniman’s childhood and youthful influences, Kirby offers a digressive rumination on art and culture and a tribute to Little Richard’s place in American musical history. In Kirby’s poem “The House of Blue Light,” he says that when he hears America singing, it “sounds like Little Richard.”

And in case you were not aware, Kirby maintains that “Tutti Frutti” is a cleaned-up version of a paean in praise of anal intercourse: “Tutti Frutti, all rooty,” Little Richard and his collaborator originally wrote as “Tutti Frutti, good booty.”

Oh my.
blog comments powered by Disqus