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Lionel Richie
  • Lionel Richie
  • Lionel Richie
  • Lionel Richie
  • Lionel Richie
  • Lionel Richie
  • Lionel Richie
  • Lionel Richie
  • Lionel Richie
  • Lionel Richie
  • Lionel Richie
  • Lionel Richie
  • Lionel Richie
  • Lionel Richie
  • Lionel Richie
  • Lionel Richie
  • Lionel Richie
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Lionel Richie

Lionel Brockman Richie (born June 20, 1949), is an American singer-songwriter and record producer who has sold (solo or as group member) more than 100 million records.

Career

Early years

Born in Tuskegee, Alabama, Richie grew up on the campus of Tuskegee Institute. His grandfather's house was across the street from the home of the president of the Institute. His family moved to Illinois where he graduated from Joliet Township High School, East Campus, in Joliet. A star tennis player in Joliet, he accepted a tennis scholarship at Tuskegee Institute and later graduated with a major in economics. After receiving his undergraduate degree from Tuskegee, Richie briefly attended graduate school at Auburn University. He is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.

The Commodores

As a student in Tuskegee, Richie formed a succession of R&B groups in the mid-1960s. In 1968 he became a singer and saxophonist with the Commodores. They signed a recording contract with Atlantic Records in 1968 for one record before moving on to Motown Records initially as a support act to The Jackson 5. The Commodores then became established as a popular soul group. Their first several albums had a danceable, funky sound, as in such tracks as "Machine Gun" and "Brick House." Over time, Richie wrote and sang more romantic, easy-listening ballads such as "Easy," "Three Times a Lady," "Still," and the tragic breakup ballad "Sail On."

By the late 1970s, he had begun to accept songwriting commissions from other artists. He composed "Lady" for Kenny Rogers, which hit #1 in 1980, and produced Rogers's album Share Your Love the following year. Richie and Rogers maintained a strong friendship in later years. Latin jazz composer and salsa romantica pioneer La Palabra enjoyed international success with his cover of "Lady," which was played at Latin dance clubs. Also in 1981, Richie sang the theme song for the film Endless Love, a duet with Diana Ross. Issued as a single, the song topped the UK and U.S. pop music charts, and became one of Motown's biggest hits. Its success encouraged Richie to branch out into a full-fledged solo career in 1982. He was replaced as lead singer for The Commodores by Skyler Jett in 1983. His debut album, Lionel Richie, produced another chart-topping single, "Truly," which continued the style of his ballads with the Commodores.

Solo career

Richie's 1982 self-titled debut contained three hit singles: the U.S. #1 song "Truly," which launched his career as one of the most successful balladeers of the 1980s, and the Top Five hits "You Are" and "My Love." The album hit #3 on the music charts and sold over 4 million copies. His 1983 follow-up album, Can't Slow Down, sold over twice as many copies and won two Grammy Awards, including Album Of The Year, propelling him into the first rank of international superstars. The album contained the #1 hit "All Night Long," a Caribbean-flavored dance number that was promoted by a colorful music video produced by former Monkee Michael Nesmith.

Several more Top 10 hits followed, the most successful of which was the ballad "Hello" (1984), a sentimental love song that showed how far Richie had moved from his R&B roots. Richie had three more Top Ten hits in 1984, "Stuck on You" (#3), "Running With the Night" (#7) and "Penny Lover" (#8). Now described by one critic as "the black Barry Manilow," in 1985 Richie wrote and performed a suitably soothing theme song, "Say You, Say Me," for the film White Nights, winning an Oscar for his efforts as well as reaching #1 on the U.S. charts and staying there for four weeks, making it the #1 song of 1985 according to Billboard's year-end Hot 100 chart. He also collaborated with Michael Jackson on the charity single "We Are the World" by USA for Africa, another #1 hit.

In 1986, Richie released Dancing on the Ceiling, his last widely popular album, which produced a run of US and UK hits including "Say You, Say Me" (U.S. #1), "Dancing on the Ceiling" (U.S. #2), "Ballerina Girl" (U.S. #7), and "Se La" (U.S. #20), Richie's most recent U.S. Pop Top Twenty hit. The title selection, which revived the lively dance sound of "All Night Long (All Night)," was accompanied by another striking video, a feature that played an increasingly important role in Richie's solo career. The critical consensus was that this album represented nothing more than a consolidation of his previous work, though Richie's collaboration with the country group Alabama on "Deep River Woman" did break new ground. By 1987, Richie was exhausted from his work schedule and after a controversial year laid low taking care of his father in Alabama. His father, Lionel Sr., died in 1990. Richie made his return to recording and performing following the release of his first greatest-hits collection, Back to Front, in 1992.

Since then, his ever-more-relaxed schedule has kept his recording and live work to a minimum. He broke the silence in 1996 with Louder Than Words, on which he resisted any change of style or the musical fashion-hopping of the past decade, sticking instead with his chosen path of well-crafted soul music, which in the intervening years has become known as Contemporary R&B.

Richie's albums in the 1990s such as Louder Than Words and Time failed to match the commercial success of his earlier work. Some of his recent albums, such as Renaissance, have returned to his older style and achieved success in Europe but only modest notice in the United States. Since 2004, he has produced a total of six Top 40 singles in the UK. On February 1, 2010, Richie made a remix of "We Are The World" in which Justin Bieber sings Richie's original part in the song.

Long-lasting popularity and later career

In 2002, Richie's song "Running with the Night" was featured on the Rockstar North video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City though the song was removed from later versions of the game. In 2004, he appeared on Canadian Idol as his songs were featured during a Canadian Idol week.

Later in 2004, he also appeared on the British motoring television series Top Gear in the "Star in a Reasonably Priced Car" segment where he was interviewed by host Jeremy Clarkson. During his lap, the Suzuki Liana he was driving lost a wheel due to hard cornering. In November 2005, Lionel Richie performed with Kenny Rogers on a CMT Crossroads special. The show gave an informative insight into their friendship both in and out of the music world. Richie was also the headliner at a 2000 Fourth of July tribute concert with Fantasia Barrino at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Richie released his eighth studio album entitled "Coming Home" on September 12, 2006. The first single of the album was "I Call It Love" and was premiered in July 2006, becoming his biggest hit in the U.S. in ten years. The album was an incredible success for Richie in the United States, peaking at #6. His adopted daughter Nicole Richie stars in the music video for this track.

On December 9, 2006, Richie hosted and performed live on the British television show An Audience with Lionel Richie. Two months later, he performed "Hello" on the 49th Grammy Awards show.

On November 25, 2007, he made a surprise appearance on the Australian Idol grand finale performing "All Night Long (All Night)" at the Sydney Opera House. Richie donated to Barack Obama's 2008 Presidential campaign.

On May 2, 2008, Lionel Richie was the 21st recipient of the George and Ira Gershwin Lifetime Achievement Award at UCLA's annual Spring Sing. In accepting the award, Richie said: "Forget about surviving 30 some odd years in the music business, Lionel Richie survived 27 years of Nicole Richie."

Recently, he has announced that he would like to get The Commodores back together soon, "or in the next 10 years no one will care." Richie is also a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.

On December 31, 2008, Richie performed in Times Square for the New Year's Eve celebration and ball drop. He also performed on the 2009 season finale for American Idol with Danny Gokey.

A new album, Just Go was released in spring 2009 - around the time Lionel confirmed there is to be a Commodores reunion in the near future.

On July 7, 2009, Richie performed "Jesus is Love" at Michael Jackson's memorial service.

On May 30, 2010, Richie performed at the National Memorial Day Concert in Washington D.C., singing "Stuck on You" and "America the Beautiful." Richie himself is from a military family.

On October 2, 2010, Richie performed at the AFL Grand Final Replay in the Pre-game entertainment to a sell out crowd and will also play post match at AAMI Park.

Popularity in the Arab world

In recent years, Richie has become a phenomenon in various Arab states, and has performed in Morocco, Dubai, Qatar and Libya.

As ABC News reports:

"Grown Iraqi men get misty-eyed by the mere mention of his name. "I love Lionel Richie," they say. They can sing an entire Lionel Richie song. He has performed in Morocco, Dubai, Qatar and Libya. There is obviously something up there. The more we talked, the more he theorized as to the reasons his music might be so popular here. He thinks it is because of the simple message in his music: Love."

According to Richie, he was told that Iraqi civilians were playing "All Night Long" the night that U.S. tanks invaded Baghdad. Richie was against the war, but says he could see a day when he would come and perform in Baghdad. "I would love to be here for that."

Dallas Austin character witness

In July 2006, songwriter and producer Dallas Austin was arrested and held in a United Arab Emirates prison on drug charges. The UAE consulate in Washington D.C. placed a call to Lionel Richie for a character reference.

Richie recounts for the New York Times:

"It was, 'Tell me what kind of guy is Dallas Austin.' I said, 'Listen, this is a great guy. He's done a great job for the community. A gangster, a hoodlum, a thug, he's not.'"

Austin was subsequently granted a pardon.

Family

Marriage with Brenda Harvey

Richie married college sweetheart Brenda Harvey on October 18, 1975. During their marriage, Lionel began a relationship with Diane Alexander in 1986. In 1988, while separated, Brenda allegedly discovered Lionel and Alexander together in a Beverly Hills hotel room by coming and saying "room service" and breaking in the door. A confrontation ensued, and Brenda had attacked both Lionel and Diane brutally. Brenda was then arrested for spousal abuse, trespassing, assualt towards Alexander and vandalism. Lionel and Brenda divorced on August 9, 1993; they had been married 17 years.

Nicole Richie

In 1983, Lionel and wife Brenda informally adopted Nicole Camille Escovedo, the two-year-old daughter of members of Lionel's band. They raised her as their daughter Nicole Richie and adopted her legally when she was nine years old. In a November 15, 2005 CNN interview with Ryan Seacrest, Nicole denied that her birth father was a member of Lionel's band; however, Peter Michael Escovedo (brother of Sheila E) was a member of Lionel's band.

Lionel became a grandfather on January 11, 2008 when Nicole gave birth to a baby girl, Harlow Winter Kate Richie-Madden, with the lead singer of Good Charlotte, Joel Madden, and again when she gave birth to Sparrow James Midnight Madden on September 9, 2009.

Marriage with Diane Alexander

Lionel married Diane on December 21, 1995. They have a son, Miles Brockman (born May 27, 1994), and a daughter, Sofia (born August 26, 1998). Lionel and Alexander divorced in January 2004.

In popular culture
  • In the video game Final Fantasy XIII, director Tetsuya Nomura based the character Sazh's appearance on Lionel Richie.
  • In The Notorious B.I.G's song "I Love the Dough" featuring Jay-Z, Lionel Richie is referenced to in the line "more richie than Lionel." This line is with regards to The Notorious B.I.G's wealth.
  • Lionel Richie is often mentioned in the television show Everybody Hates Chris, as many secondary characters claim that the main character (played by Tyler James Williams) resembles him.
  • Richie was mentioned in SpongeBob SquarePants but was named as "Lionel Fishy."
  • In August 2010 Richie appears in a Walkers Crisps TV commercial in the United Kingdom with ex soccer star Gary Lineker. Lionel is seen in various locations crooning about Walkers latest crisp invention, the extra crunchy crisp. Unfortunately, his crisp-related serenading is brought to an abrupt end when he is defenestrated by an irate Lineker. Gary snatches a crisp from Lionel, who had attempted to share the potato-based snack.
  • Argentine-born Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi was named after Richie.






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