Opinion: Little Richard’s Queer Triumph

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05/10/2020

It was during a 1966 concert in Paris when Little Richard, drenched in sweat, told a mostly white audience, “I’m ready, ready, ready teddy, I’m ready, ready, ready teddy!” He took off his soaked shirt and the men and women pleaded for it as he swung it over his head like a helicopter, carefully considering who he would bless with his dripping D.N.A. For those in the audience, it must have been fantastical to see, and a deeply erotic thing to witness. To think, in 1966, a black queer man — over the course of his life he would identify himself as gay, bisexual and “omnisexual” — could be a sex god. He was a symbol of brazen sensuality, three years before Jimi Hendrix would use his tongue and guitar to catapult a nation beyond their prudish sensibilities at Woodstock.

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