© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
Tutti Frutti

Tutti Frutti


by Little Richard

Tutti Frutti Introduction

In a Nutshell:

In 2010, the New York Times called "Tutti Frutti" "one of the detonating blasts of the '50s rock 'n' roll explosion." The song was certainly a detonating blast, and not just because it was a rock and roll original that inspired generations. It was sexually suggestive rock and roll, performed by a mascara-wearing, pompadour-sporting black man for a mixed-race audience, released at a time when segregation was still legal.

Most people have heard "Tutti Frutti;" the song and the genre that came with it have been so broadly accepted into American pop culture that it has virtually reached elevator-music status. But what a lot of people don't know about "Tutti Frutti" is that the original lyrics by Little Richard had a very different meaning than the ones we are familiar with. Read on to find out how a song that could have gone down in obscurity for its references to gay themes—long before "Born This Way" and quite a bit more risqué—instead became one of the most iconic recordings in music history.

About the Song

ArtistLittle Richard Musician(s)Little Richard (vocals, piano), Lee Allen and Alvin "Red" Tyler (saxophone), Frank Fields (guitar), Earl Palmer (drums)
AlbumReleased as a single; B-Side "I'm Just a Lonely Guy"
Writer(s)Richard Penniman, Dorothy LaBostrie, Joe Lubin
Producer(s)Robert Blackwell
Learn to play: http://www.guitaretab.com/l/little-richard/10613.html http://www.musicnotes.com/sheetmusic/mtdFPE.asp?ppn=MN0062013
Buy this song: Amazon iTunes
Try Listen and Learn (BETA)

Shmoop Connections

Explore the ways this song connects with the world and with other topics on Shmoop
These days, the spoofy, costumed, gender-bending performance art of Lady Gaga seems to be all the rage (or all the outrage, depending on whom you ask). Little Richard is surely one of Gaga's predecessors. He is a true performance art diva specializing in slightly strange public behavior and huge radio hits. Although the history of rock and roll has been consistently sprinkled with larger-than-life figures, the 1950s provided a particularly conservative backdrop for Richard Penniman's hollering, boogie-ing, piano-humping and parent-scaring path to global fame.

According to Richard himself, the racism of the 1950s meant he was an underappreciated rock and roll original. "People called rock & roll 'African music'," wrote Little Richard in 2003. "They called it 'voodoo music.' They said that it would drive the kids insane. They said that it was just a flash in the pan — the same thing that they always used to say about hip-hop. Only it was worse back then, because, you have to remember, I was the first black artist whose records the white kids were starting to buy. And the parents were really bitter about me." If the parents of postwar suburbia had heard the original lyrics to "Tutti Frutti," they would have certainly been even more severely concerned.

On the Charts

Little Richard's original Specialty Records recording of "Tutti Frutti" peaked at #2 on the Billboard Rhythm and Blues Chart and #17 on the Billboard Pop Chart in 1956.

The song is listed at #43 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Mojo placed the song at #1 on a 2007 list of 100 Records that Changed the World.1

In 2010, "Tutti Frutti" was added to the Library of Congress National Recording Registry, alongside Loretta Lynn's Coalminer's Daughter and 2Pac's Dear Mama.

Little Richard has been recognized and awarded throughout his career as one of the founders of rock and roll; his honors include a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Songwriter's Hall of Fame, and Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, which ranks him at #8.

1. http://www.rocklistmusic.co.uk/mojo.html#100%20Records%20That%20Changed%20the%20World

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...