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Inside Little Richard's Relationship with His Only Former Wife Ernestine Campbell

Pedro Marrero
May 17, 2020
08:00 A.M.
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After a long battle with cancer, the rock n’ roll icon died at age 87. His music and unique performance style became a large influence on almost any of today's rock stars. His complicated struggles with sexual orientation and religion were also part of his life.

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Little Richard’s recent death has left the entire rock n’ roll community in deep mourning. At 15 years old, Richard Wayne Penniman was already forging his way into becoming one of the greatest influencers of rock music.

The music icon is not only known by being in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, or the several hit singles he made into the Billboard R&B chart like the famous “Tutti Frutti”, "Long Tall Sally" and “Good Golly Miss Molly”, but also by his dazzling and unique performance style.

Little Richard performs live at the Gala for the President at Ford's Theatre in 1994. I Image: Getty Images.

Little Richard performs live at the Gala for the President at Ford's Theatre in 1994. I Image: Getty Images.

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He has also been known for his struggles on sexual orientation and religious beliefs throughout his career. Although having considered himself gay for many years, he still answered ambiguous responses to some interviews regarding his sexuality in recent years.

ONCE MARRIED

Although identified as embracing gender-nonconformity, the singer was indeed married once. In 1959, he tied the knot to a woman named Ernestine Campbell. It is very little known about Ernestine but that she was a secretary from Washington, D.C. They divorced in 1961.

Little Richard at the 1988 Rock n Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony circa 1988 in New York City. I Image: Getty Images.

Little Richard at the 1988 Rock n Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony circa 1988 in New York City. I Image: Getty Images.

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An interesting fact is that according to the media, during his relationship with Ernestine, the couple adopted one son, whose name was Danny Jones Penniman. It is said that Little Richard and Danny Jones remained close over the years.

Previous to his marriage, the pianist had another relationship with a woman named Audrey Robinson, whose stage name was Lee Angel. In an interview with LA Weekly in 2018, Audrey recalled that ever since they met they had a close relationship as good friends and working collaborators.

Little Richard performs on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" in December 1997. I Image: Getty Images.

Little Richard performs on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" in December 1997. I Image: Getty Images.

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FAITH AND SEXUALITY

It seems that the rock star's own take on his sexuality evolved over the years. In 1995, he said in an interview with Penthouse: "I've been gay all my life and I know God is a God of love, not of hate". However, many years later, in 2012, he described his sexual orientation as "omnisexual” in another interview.

Little Richard was always open during his career about his sexual orientation, and the complicated feelings he had towards it since he remained very strong in his faith during his life. During an interview for a Christian-oriented network, he said that he believed homosexuality was “unnatural”, but also believed that his faith would save him.

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MUSIC INFLUENCER

Little Richard was a stage persona. His music, voice, and performance style was an absolute influence in many musicians of rock & roll history. His songs became covered over the decades by bands like Everly Brothers, the Kinks, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Elvis Costello, and the Scorpions.

Little Richard attends "The Legacy Lounge" A conversation with CeeLo Green and his inspiration at W Atlanta - Downtown on September 29, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia. I Image: Getty Images.

Little Richard attends "The Legacy Lounge" A conversation with CeeLo Green and his inspiration at W Atlanta - Downtown on September 29, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia. I Image: Getty Images.

We could name many others like the big influence he had on Prince, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, or David Bowie, just to name a few. After the news of his death broke, musician Steven Van Zandt wrote on Twitter:

“RIP Little Richard. The man who invented it. Elvis popularized it. Chuck Berry was the storyteller. Richard embodied the Spirit of RocknRoll”.

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