Little Richard had an estimated net worth of $40 million.
The music legend, whose death was reported on Saturday, was praised as a pioneer of rock and roll music and one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century, though he played in an era where singers often endured through low pay and long hours.
Reports indicated that the singer died at the age of 87. His cause of death has not yet been reported.
Little Richard’s Fortune Was Light Compared To Other Music Legends
The singer, whose real name was Richard Wayne Penniman, had an estimated net worth of $40 million, the celebrity financial site Celebrity Net Worth reported.
That is seen as comparatively light given his stature in the music world and decades performing. Little Richard was not listed among the list of the Top 100 Richest Singers in a list compiled by The Richest — a full $20 million behind the lowest-ranking on the list, which included Queen Latifah, Annie Lennox, and Brandy Norwood. Many included on the list performed only a fraction of Little Richard’s career, which stretched across more than six decades.
Though his pay was nowhere near most modern artists, Little Richard was confident of his impact on music history. In a 1993 interview with the Union-Tribune, the singer said that he was the first to play what became known as rock and roll music, inspiring other early pioneers in the genre.
“I am the creator of rock ‘n’ roll, I am the originator, the innovator, the emancipator,” Richard said.
“I am the architect of it. I started it. Before me there was nothing but chickens and a few pigs and ducks. Fats Domino and Chuck Berry? They were singing blues, low-down blues, back then. They weren’t rocking at that time.”
But Richard struggled with low pay even as he was blazing a path in a new genre of music. After signing with RCA records in 1951 and then with Peacock Records in 1953, he was unable to find his footing in the industry until he found a hit with the song “Tutti Frutti.”
Little Richard Had Business Ventures Beyond Music
Rest In Peace To One Of The True Creators Of Rock And Roll. This Is The Commercial I Directed With Little Richard And Michael Jordan, 1991. pic.twitter.com/51bEV1eYKB— Spike Lee (@SpikeLeeJoint) May 9, 2020
Though he is remembered as a pioneer of rock and roll, not all of Little Richard’s estimated $40 million fortune came from his work in music.
As he became an iconic and flamboyant figure in American culture, the singer also found a niche making appearances in television and movies, being featured in a number of commercials. In the wake of his death this weekend, many took to social media to remember an iconic 2007 ad for the insurance company Geico in which Little Richard narrated a woman’s Thanksgiving experience in putting in an insurance claim.
Little Richard once played my son in a commercial back in the 90's. I will miss him. We had a lot of fun in Pasadena that day. RIP Little Richard.— Chuck Woolery (@chuckwoolery) May 9, 2020
Director Spike Lee shared a video on Saturday of a 1991 commercial that he directed with Little Richard and Michael Jordan, showing the singer as a genie who grants a wish for Lee. After several failed suggestions, Little Richard finally turned Lee into Jordan, who bragged that he could “fly” as Jordan dunked a basketball.
While it wasn’t clear how much money Little Richard made from these appearances, they did help him establish a national stature in the back half of his career and introduced the singer to a new audience.