R&B lost three legends this weekend in Little Richard, Andre Harrell and Betty Wright

May 14, 2020

Pictured (from left) are Betty Wright, Little Richard and Andre Harrell.

It was a tough weekend for rhythm and blues with the deaths of three musical icons.

Singers Betty Wright and Little Richard along with music executive Andre Harrell died this weekend. All had major impacts on R&B and the music industry as a whole. If one wasn’t moving the genre forward, another was introducing the world to new acts.

Betty Wright influenced a generation of female artists

The soulful Betty Wright died from cancer Sunday, May 10, 2020, at the age of 66 in her Miami home, according to Billboard.

She had been diagnosed with endometrial cancer in the fall, Steve Greenberg, president of S-Curve Records who worked with Wright, told The New York Times.

Wright’s career started with her family’s gospel group, according to Billboard, and she released her first album at the age of 14 in 1968.

The Grammy-award winner and six-time nominee is known for her hits “Clean Up Woman” and “Tonight is the Night.”

Many of her hits have been sampled by rappers and singers like Beyoncé, Color Me Bad and Chance the Rapper.

Little Richard was an early figure in rock

The screaming, preening, scene-stealing wild man of early rock ‘n’ roll first came on the scene in the 1950s with hits like “Tutti Frutti,” “Long Tall Sally” and “Slippin’ and Slidin’,” died Saturday, May 9, 2020, at the age of 87. The cause of death was bone cancer, according to his lawyer, Bill Sobel.

Richard Wayne Penniman, a Macon, Georgia, native had a long career after that saw him becoming one of the first inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, getting a street named after him in his home town and receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 1993 Grammys.

Besides being a ground breaking musical pioneer, Richard’s other great love was his faith. He began attending the Alabama Bible school Oakwood College in 1957, where he was eventually ordained a minister.

Andre Harrell had an everlasting footprint in hiphop

Harrell is credited with mentoring Sean Diddy Combs as well as discovering and launching the careers of various artists and entertainers.

He got his start in the 1980s as one of two members in the rap group Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde. Harrell was then hired by Def Jam Records where he worked as vice president and then became a general manager of the label.

It was when he founded Uptown Records that things really took off. He hired Diddy as an intern and launched the careers of Mary J. Blige, Heavy D and The Boyz, Jodeci and Teddy Riley.

“Known to have the midas touch when it came to discovering and developing talent, Andre was responsible for changing the sound of R&B music and crossing artist and executives over into what was then known as ‘pop culture’,” the Combs Enterprises website said.