Little Richard gave Ava DuVernay a big hand when she was a waitress making her way through college.
The director shared her story of the music legend after his passing on Saturday, saying she came to know the singer when she worked at a soul food restaurant in Los Angeles that he came to every Sunday for brunch. As tributes were pouring in for the singer, whose real name was Richard Wayne Penniman, DuVernay took to Twitter to share her own memory of his generosity.
“I served soul food brunch to Little Richard every Sunday for a year while waitressing at Aunt Kizzy’s Back Porch in LA,” she wrote. “I was a college student. He tipped me a crisp $100 bill each week on a $75 breakfast with friends. This was 30 years ago. Helped me so much. God rest his soul.”
DuVernay’s story captured some viral interest, with many responding with their own stories of meeting Little Richard, finding him to be down-to-earth, kind, and generous.
“I had an encounter with him and his entourage, also 30 years ago, in an empty airport gate on an early Sunday morning,” one person responded. “He was softly singing gospel songs. Took the time to chat with me. Invented rock and roll AND was a kind person – may his memory be a blessing.”
Many others who knew the singer have shared their own stories, including former President Bill Clinton who said it was “an honor” that Little Richard performed at his inauguration in 1993. Like DuVernay, many noted how they found him to be kind and ready to connect with anyone, despite his status as one of the most legendary singers of the 20th century.
Little Richard was a great talent and a big part of my childhood so it was an honor when he played at my inauguration in 1993. His music influenced countless musicians and we still feel it today. I will miss him and his unforgettable charisma.— Bill Clinton (@BillClinton) May 9, 2020
Little Richard stopped playing, looked at me and said “Don’t be shy now. You wanna sit next to Little Richard while he plays Tutti Frutti?” I said “Yes sir. I do.” And I did. And it was mind boggling. Like swimming in a fountain of joy. Thank you, sir. Rest In Peace.— Bradley Whitford (@BradleyWhitford) May 9, 2020
Others paid tribute to the singer for his impact on the music world. Little Richard was seen as the architect of the rock and roll genre, pioneering the form of music and inspiring a generation of artists, including the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix, who got his start playing in a band with Little Richard.
Some noted how Little Richard’s larger-than-life persona so perfectly embodied the spirit of rock and roll.
“If you love anything about the flamboyance of rock & roll, you have Little Richard to thank,” Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys told Rolling Stone. “And where would rock & roll be without flamboyance? He was the first. To be able to be that uninhibited back then, you had to have a lot of not-give-a-f*ck.”