The only thing worse than the world being shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic is the major losses that the world has experienced, specifically in the entertainment industry. Over this weekend alone, R&B has lost three incredible musicians, including Little Richard, Andre Harrell, and Betty Wright.
When it comes to rhythm and blues, these 3 legends’ legacies will live on forever — introducing the masses to a new sound, a new energy, and most importantly, meaningful, heartfelt music. Betty Wright is best known for her songs “Clean Up Woman,” “Dance With Me,” and “Tonight is the Night.” To this day, her records are frequently sampled by this generation’s hip-hop and R&B artists such as Beyonce, Tupac, and Mary J Blige.
Sexuality is a frequent theme throughout Wright’s music, who famously penned “Tonight is the Night” about losing her virginity. In “Clean Up Woman,” a 17-year-old Wright sings about a woman who “gets all the love we girls leave behind.” The soul singer passed away from cancer this past Sunday (May 10th) in her home in Miami, at the age of 66. In fall of last year, Wright was diagnosed with endometrial cancer, according to the New York Times.
Little Richard exploded onto the scene in the 50’s with timeless hits such as “Tutti Frutti,” “Long Tall Sally,” and “Slippin’ and Slidin’,” often referred to as the ”The Originator” and “Architect of Rock & Roll.” Known for his loud and flamboyant style, the Macon, Georgia native was also remembered for his ambiguous sexuality. While he told Charles White he was “omnisexual,” he told Penthouse magazine he always knew he was gay one decade later.
Although he never won a Grammy award for his work, he was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award in 1993. In 1986 he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the initial class of inductees. Little Richard passed away on Saturday (May 9th) at age 87, succumbing to bone cancer.
Andre Harrell’s passing left the hip-hop community in distraught, as every A-list artist would pay tribute to the late record executive via all social media platforms. Harrell began his journey as an artist in the early 80’s, before he discovered Sean “Puffy” Combs and introduced him to the world. Diddy famously interned for Harrell at Uptown Records, the iconic music label that launched the careers of Mary J. Blige, Jodeci, Heavy D, and Al B. Sure.
Harrell’s unexpected passing was first announced by DJ D-Nice during one of his Club Quarantine Instagram Live sets. Harrell was well-respected for his ability to develop talent and for being an innovator in the R&B music space. Harrell and Combs remained life-long friends and teamed up once again at Combs’ Revolt media network where Harrell served as vice-chairman.
Rest in peace to these three incredibly special individuals. We send condolences to their families and loved ones.