Lionel Brockman Richie is a 61-year old American singer-songwriter and producer who "truly" became the ultimate 'American Idol', selling more than 100-million records. I myself bought only 25 of them, but they were always on the top of the stack!
Richie was born on the campus of 'Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, after which his family moved to Joliet, Illinois when he was a toddler. After becoming a star tennis player and graduating from Joliet Township High School, Richie returned to Alabama and accepted a scholarship at Tuskegee Institute.
While earning his economics degree, Richie formed a succession of R&B groups, until finally becoming the lead singer and saxophonist with 'The Commodores'. From that point on, his only need for an economics degree was to manage all the money he would earn!
Under the 'Motown Records' label the Commodores cut their teeth as a support act to the 'Jackson Five', and thus, established themselves as a popular soul group.
After cutting thier first several albums which featured a danceable, funky sound with songs like 'Machine Gun', and 'Brick House', Richie began to write and sing more romantic, easy-listening ballads such as 'Easy', 'Three Times a Lady', 'Still', and eventually--the tragic break-up ballad 'Sail on'.
It was during this time, and while enjoying these songs that Richie's sound touched my musical soul! His smooth, resonating voice and elegant piano accompaniment helped spawn a personal hobby of listening to, and playing back songs on the piano...totally playing by ear. I never did learn to read music. I could just play. It was God's, sort of...simple little gift to me, which was stongly influenced by artists like Lionel Richie.
All of us music lovers appreciate those few, rare, euphoric moments of joy that come when listening to someone play and sing a certain song! One of mine happened while watching the 1980 'Grammy Awards', as Lionel Richie took to the grand piano and sang 'Lady', a ballad he actually composed for Kenny Rogers.
It was Kenny who sang 'Lady' to #1 that year, but it was Richie's singing and playing that night, that brought tears to my eyes, and tingling down my spine! In 1981, Richie produced Rogers' 'Share Your Love' album, and the two stars became life-long friends.
In 1982, Richie sang a duet with 'Diana Ross' as the theme song for the movie 'Endless Love". The song topped the UK and U.S. pop music charts, becoming one of Motown's biggest smash-hits...and encouraged Richie to branch out into a full-fledged solo career.
His debut album called, 'Lionel Richie' produced chart-topping singles 'Truly', 'You Are', and 'My Love', while selling over 4-million copies! His 1983 follow up LP, 'Can't Slow Down' featured the Caribbean flavored dance number 'All Night Long', and sold more than twice as many records--winning Richie two 'Grammy Awards' including 'Album of the Year'.
This propelled him into the top rank of international superstar, where, over the next four years, more Top-10 hits followed--the most successful being another Richie love ballad called 'Hello'. In 1985, Richie collaborated with 'Stevie Wonder', and 'Michael Jackson' on the 'USA for Africa' "We are the World" project.
But, by 1987 Richie was exhausted from his work schedule, and returned home to Alabama to care for his ailing father, Lionel Sr., who eventually died in 1990.
In-between this time, Richie and longtime wife 'Brenda Harvey' adopted two-year old 'Nichol Escovedo', who's birth father is 'Peter Escovedo', a member of Lionel's band...and brother of drummer 'Sheila E'.
Following a painful separation, highly publicized affair, and divorce from Brenda Harvey, Richie married 'Diana Alexander' in 1995, and, together they had a son, Miles and a daughter, Sofia. Richie and Alexander eventually divorced in January 2004.
Daughter 'Nichole Richie' went on to become a successful actress and screen star before giving birth to a baby girl with singer 'Joel Madden'--thus making Lionel a Grandfather in January 2008.
As for "Grandpa", he has spent the past 17-years producing albums like 'Time', 'Louder Than Words', and even a greatest hits collection called 'Back to Front'....none of which measured up to his previous successes.
In 2002, Richie's song 'Running with the Night' was featured on the video game 'Grand Theft Auto', and his 2006 album 'Coming Home' featured "Call it Love"...his first hit single in 10-years.
Richie has since hosted and performed live on 'British TV's "An Audience with Lionel Richie", appeared on the 'Australian Idol' grand finale, and sang "Hello" at the '49th Grammy Awards'.
In May 2008, he received the 'George and Ira Gershwin Lifetime Achievement Award' at 'UCLA's' 'Spring Sing'. Richie has also become a phenomenon in the Arab world, performing in Morraco, Kubai, Qatar, and Libya. According to Richie, Iraqi civilians actually played "All Night Long" the night U.S. tanks invaded Baghdad.
After song writer 'Dallas Austin' was arrested on drug charges and held in a United Arab Emirates prison, a Washington D.C. consulate official called Richie for a character reference, and upon sending abroad his three-sentence statement of support--Austin was pardoned!
Richie recently announced his intention to get the 'Commodores' back together again soon, or "in the next ten years no one will care", he commented.
Last year, Richie performed on the season finale of 'American Idol', and has since released his latest album 'Just Go'. Then, on June 7th, 2009 he performed 'Jesus is Love', at Michael Jackson's memorial service.
All in all, in so many ways, Lionel Richie has "Truly" become the genuine article of influence for millions of fans(me included) in every corner of the music world!
Thanks, and keep listening to 'Soul City' on Streetwise Radio