Little Richard 

Saturday, July 31, at the International Children's Games, downtown Cleveland.

To say that Little Richard is in his twilight years is a little off, unless your idea of "twilight" is crammed with dance parties. Sure, the real King of Rock and Roll doesn't record much anymore (a track on a 2002 Johnny Cash tribute CD is about it for the last few years), and his touring is down to a few state fairs and other summer shindigs like the International Children's Games, which is why he's in town this week. Three thousand young'ns from 50 different countries will lace up their sneakers for these pee-wee Olympics, the first time in its 36 years the event has been held in America.

And it's appropriate that Little Richard will be supplying tunes, because he is America -- from all his original wild and carefree mixing of genres, genders, and garish hair to his religious confusions, concessions to cash, and influence on everyone from the Ramones and Prince to OutKast and the Hives. He embodies all the odd, beautiful contradictions that come splashing out of this melting pot when it's given a good shake. His hilarious boasting is way too modest, and his days of having to prove anything are long gone. True, he looks and sounds wackier than Michael Jackson these days, but the man can still slam the keys and get 'em wooing along.

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