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By 1969, Little Richard was considered past his prime. It had been a decade since he'd scored a major hit, and in those ten years, the entire world had changed in drastic ways. In the world of music, Little Richard's songs were no longer considered rebellious, as that honor was then bestowed upon the acid rock and funk that was ruling the airwaves for youths facing a planet gone to Hell in a handbasket. White audiences wanted something more than frivolous songs about trying to get a girl to come home with you, while black audiences were digging the socially conscious, empowering grooves of James Brown and Aretha Franklin. Although Little Richard was still drawing crowds and was appearing on TV with Johnny Carson, he was far from the cutting edge and remained outside the average concertgoer's consciousness. Then came the Toronto Peace Festival.
Originally called the Toronto Rock 'n Roll Revival, this festival drew 20,000 fans and hosted a stellar retro lineup, including Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Bo Diddley, as well as modern acts, such as The Doors, The Chicago Transit Authority, and John Lennon and Yoko Ono's Plastic Ono Band. Little Richard was especially concerned about being upstaged by Lennon, so he created an overdramatic entrance while wearing a wildly shiny outfit. Then he and his extremely tight band proceeded to tear through his classics at breakneck speed. With sweat gushing down his heavily made up face, he jumped on the piano and drove the young crowd crazy, exhorting them to get up and dance to blazing numbers like "Rip It Up," "Good Golly Miss Molly," and "Jenny, Jenny." By the time he finished racing through the closing notes of his "Long Tally Sally" finale, he was sopping wet with his shirt torn to shreds by the crowd below. In 30 frenetic minutes Little Richard had just made his comeback.
Little Richard – Live at the Toronto Peace Festival 1969 serves as a portrait of an artist executing his craft with unbridled energy and flair. Thankfully, the legendary D.A. Pennebaker captured the grandiosity of this moment with his signature close-ups and crowd shots. As the late 1960s hippie and mid 1950s rock 'n roll worlds collided on this Toronto stage, Little Richard emerged the victor in a triumphant performance that would help springboard a revival in his popularity over the next decade.