Today marks rock n’ roll pioneer Little Richard‘s 81st birthday. Richard rocketed to stardom in the mid-’50s, when his black eyeliner, bouffant hairdo, and flamboyant performances were hard to ignore. With innovative songs like “Tutti Frutti,” “Lucille,” and “Good Golly Miss Molly,” Little Richard, whose real name is Richard Penniman, earned his place in music history, and by 1968 he had sold an astonishing 32 million records worldwide.

In September, Little Richard revealed that he suffered a heart attack. Richard spoke of the attack to Cee Lo Green in Atlanta during a Recording Academy fundraiser where the two were involved in a Q&A. Richard explained: “The other night, I didn’t know I was having a heart attack. I was coughing, and my right arm was aching. I told my son, ‘Make the room as cold as ice.’ So he turned the air conditioning on, and I took a baby aspirin. The doctor told me that saved my life. Jesus had something for me. He brought me through.”