Often referred to a “the architect of rock and roll,” Richard Wayne Penniman ushered in the evolution of R&B into rock in the 1950s with songs like “Tutti Frutti,” “Long Tall Sally,” and “Good Golly, Miss Molly, and heavily influenced both funk and soul music. His flashy appearance, primal vocalizations and rhythmic thrusts also sexualized popular music in a way America hadn’t experienced before.
His sexuality has long been the subject of rumors, some of which were started by Richard himself: He admitted to same-sex trysts as a young man, but later denied being gay. (After being born again, he called homosexuality “contagious.”) Penniman later claimed to be omnisexual, and then finally, in 1995, told Penthouse he was gay. Always leave ’em guessing, huh?