Gone was his famous pompadour and mustache. And confined to a wheelchair, he wasn't about to bound up to a piano and assault it with one of his legendary rock 'n' roll songs.
But Little Richard — who died Saturday at age 87 — one day in 2017 spoke at an Illinois church and agreed to an interview with WSIL-TV. And he unquestionably was in command of his audience as he spoke about his Christian faith.
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"At the time you would think about how you could become bigger and bigger and make more money," the singer — whose real last name is Penniman — told the station of his heyday during the infancy of rock 'n' roll.
But soon the adulation shifted: "I didn't feel right anymore. I would sing and do things, but you know, I wasn't a part of the in-crowd anymore."
'God Is Real'
Rolling Stone said he gave up music in 1957 and began attending Alabama Bible school Oakwood College where he was ordained a minister — and his 1959 album "God Is Real" was full on the gospel. Little Richard went back to entertaining mainstream audiences, even while newer acts such as the Beatles took over, the magazine said. Yet the Fab Four as well as the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan still looked up to and paid tribute to him.
Rumors about his sexuality also swirled throughout his career, Rolling Stone said, and he struggled with addictions. But late in his life he had long past given up drugs and also denounced gender-bending and alternate sexual lifestyles.
"I just started thinking about Jesus," Little Richard said in his 2017 interview with WSIL. "I started thinking the world was going to end soon and all the trouble of the world."
He added that "I made up my mind that I'd rather have Jesus than anything the world could afford."
Speaking to the church crowd, Little Richard was in full-on preacher mode.
"And I'm so glad that I know Jesus. 84 years old; I know Jesus. 85 this year — if i live — I know Jesus. [There's] nothing like Jesus. Brothers and sisters, ladies and gentlemen, remember I don't care what color you are black, white, red, brown, purple, yellow — it don't matter. Jesus loves you. He made you. Jesus, the word of God. In times like these, I just say that we need a savior. You've got to remember that Jesus is the Word of God, and all Scripture is given by inspiration of God ..."
He added that when he goes to bed at night, he sleeps with a Bible in his arms: "It makes me feel comfortable."
Little Richard added that one night the lights went out, and it was "a horrible feeling." Not knowing what to do with nobody there to help him and being unable to walk, he said he simply called out to God.
"We need Jesus," Little Richard added. "Don't let nobody tell you anything different."