Lionel Brockman Richie Jr. (born June 20, 1949) is an American singer, songwriter, record producer, and television personality. He rose to fame in the 1970s as a songwriter and the co-lead singer of the Motown group Commodores; writing and recording the hit singles "Easy", "Sail On", "Three Times a Lady" and "Still", with the group before his departure. In 1980, he wrote and produced the US Billboard Hot 100 number one single "Lady" for Kenny Rogers.

Lionel Richie
Richie in 2022
Lionel Brockman Richie Jr.

(1949-06-20) June 20, 1949 (age 74)
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • record producer
  • television personality
Years active1968–present
Brenda Harvey
(m. 1975; div. 1993)
Diane Alexander
(m. 1995; div. 2004)
Children3, including Nicole and Sofia
Musical career
  • Vocals
  • piano
  • saxophone
Formerly ofCommodores

In 1981, Richie wrote and produced the single "Endless Love", which he recorded as a duet with Diana Ross; it remains among the top 20 bestselling singles of all time, and the biggest career hit for both artists.[1] In 1982, he officially launched his solo career with the album Lionel Richie, which sold over four million copies and spawned the singles "You Are", "My Love", and the number one single "Truly".

Richie's second album, Can't Slow Down (1983), reached number one on the US Billboard 200 chart and sold over 20 million copies worldwide, becoming one of the best-selling albums of all time; and spawned the number one singles "All Night Long (All Night)" and "Hello". He then co-wrote the 1985 charity single "We Are the World" with Michael Jackson, which sold over 20 million copies.[2] His third album, Dancing on the Ceiling (1986), spawned the number one single "Say You, Say Me" (from the 1985 film White Nights) and the No. 2 hit title track. From 1986 to 1996, Richie took a break from recording; he has since then released seven studio albums. He has joined the singing competition American Idol to serve as a judge, starting from its sixteenth season (2018 to present).[3]

During his solo career, Richie became one of the most successful balladeers of the 1980s, and has sold over 100 million records worldwide, making him one of the world's best-selling artists of all time.[4] He has won four Grammy Awards, including Song of the Year for "We Are the World", and Album of the Year for Can't Slow Down.[5] "Endless Love" was nominated for an Academy Award; while "Say You, Say Me" won both the Academy Award and the Golden Globe award for Best Original Song.[6] In 2016, Richie received the Songwriters Hall of Fame's highest honor, the Johnny Mercer Award.[7] In 2022, he received the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song by the Library of Congress;[8] as well as the American Music Awards Icon Award.[9] He was also inducted into Black Music & Entertainment Walk of Fame, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2022.[10]

Early life edit

Richie was born on June 20, 1949, in Tuskegee, Alabama, the son of Lionel Brockman Richie (1915–1990),[11] a U.S. Army systems analyst, and Alberta R. Foster (1917–2001),[12] a teacher and school principal. His grandmother Adelaide Mary Brown was a pianist who played classical music.[13][14] On March 4, 2011, he appeared on NBC's Who Do You Think You Are?, which found out that his maternal great-grandfather was most likely the biological son of federal judge and slaveowner Morgan Welles Brown.[15] He was also the national leader of an early Black American fraternal organization.[16] Notably, J. Louis Brown was:

[P]rincipal organizer and Supreme Grand Archon of the Knights of Wise Men, a fraternal organization for black men in the post-Civil War period. Formed in Nashville in 1879, it was a fraternal insurance and burial benefit society, as were so many others during the period.[16]

Richie grew up on the campus of Tuskegee Institute.[17] Their family home was given to his grandparents as a gift from Booker T. Washington.[13] He graduated from Joliet Township High School, East Campus in Joliet, Illinois.[18] A star tennis player in Joliet,[19] he accepted a tennis scholarship to attend Tuskegee Institute, where he was a member of the marching band, the Marching Crimson Pipers ,[20] and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in economics with a minor in accounting.[18][13]

Richie considered studying divinity to become a priest in the Episcopal Church, in which he had been baptised, but ultimately decided he was not "priest material" and decided to continue his musical career despite not knowing how to read or write music.[13][21] He is a member of Kappa Kappa Psi, a national honor fraternity for band members,[22] and an active life member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.[23][24]

Career edit

Commodores edit

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 breakup ballad "Sail On".

In 1974, Richie achieved his first commercial success as a songwriter with "Happy People", which he co-wrote with Jeffrey Bowen and Donald Baldwin. Originally intended as a Commodores track, it was recorded by The Temptations, who had their No. 1 R&B with the song. By the late 1970s, Richie had begun to accept songwriting commissions from other artists. He wrote "Lady" with Kenny Rogers, which hit No. 1 in 1980, and produced Rogers' 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 title theme song for the film Endless Love, a duet with Diana Ross. Issued as a single, the song topped the Canada, Brazil, Australia, Japan, New Zealand and US pop music charts, and became one of Motown's biggest hits.

Solo career edit

Richie in 1984

Richie's 1982 debut solo album, Lionel Richie, contained three hit singles: the U.S. number-one song "Truly", which continued the style of his ballads with the Commodores and 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 No. 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 number-one hit "All Night Long", a Caribbean-flavored dance number that was promoted by a colorful music video produced by former Monkee Michael Nesmith. In 1984, he performed "All Night Long" at the ending ceremony of the XXIII Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

Several more Top 10 hits followed, the most successful of which was the ballad "Hello" (1984), a sentimental love song that showed how far he had moved from his R&B roots. Richie had three more top ten hits in 1984, "Stuck on You" (No. 3), "Running with the Night" (No. 7) and "Penny Lover" (No. 8), as well as writing and producing "Missing You" for former labelmate and duet partner Diana Ross (No. 10 Pop, No. 1 R&B). In 1985, he wrote and performed "Say You, Say Me" for the film White Nights. The song won an Academy Award and reached No. 1 on the U.S. charts, staying there for four weeks, making it the number-two song of 1986 according to Billboard's Year-End Hot 100 chart, behind the charity single "That's What Friends Are For" by Dionne and Friends. He also collaborated with Michael Jackson on the charity single "We Are the World" by USA for Africa, another number-one hit.

In 1986, Richie released Dancing on the Ceiling, his last widely popular album, which produced a run of five US and UK hits, "Say You, Say Me" (U.S. No. 1), "Dancing on the Ceiling" (U.S. No. 2), "Love Will Conquer All" (U.S. No. 9), "Ballerina Girl" (U.S. No. 7), and "Se La" (U.S. No. 20). He 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 late 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 and Just for You, have returned to his older style and achieved success in Europe but only modest notice in the United States.

Later career edit

Richie and Guy Sebastian performing "All Night Long" during Richie's 2011 Australian and New Zealand tour

Richie was the headliner at a 2006 Fourth of July tribute concert with Fantasia Barrino at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. On May 7, 2006, Richie performed on the main stage (Acura Stage) at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, replacing Antoine "Fats" Domino, who had fallen ill. Richie released his eighth studio album titled "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 a success for Richie in the United States, peaking at No. 6.[citation needed]

On May 2, 2008, 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."[25]

In May 2009, Richie announced that he would like to get The Commodores back together soon.[26] An album, Just Go, was released in 2009. On July 7, 2009, Richie performed "Jesus is Love" at Michael Jackson's memorial service.[27]

Richie returned to Australia in 2011 where he and guest artist Guy Sebastian toured the country and New Zealand with concert dates throughout March and April.[28] Richie and Guy Sebastian recorded Richie's 1983 number-one single "All Night Long" together to raise money for Australian floods and New Zealand earthquake relief.[29][better source needed]

On March 26, 2012, Richie released his tenth studio album, Tuskegee, which featured 13 of his hit songs performed as duets with country stars.[30][31] The album returned him to the top of the Billboard 200 chart, his first number one album there since Dancing on the Ceiling, and achieved platinum status within six weeks of release.[citation needed]

On June 28, 2015, Richie played to an audience of between 100,000 and 120,000 people at the Glastonbury Festival, England. His show was described as "triumphant" by the BBC and was followed by his return to the top of the UK albums chart with a reissued compilation album of his work as both a solo artist and with the Commodores.[32] In September 2017, ABC announced that Richie would be a judge for the revival of American Idol.[33] Richie has been a judge on the reboot for seven seasons, including 2024.[34][needs update]

In May 2017, Richie was honored at Berklee College of Music during its 2017 commencement concert when graduating students performed a medley of his discography. Richie was also awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Music.[35] On December 3, 2017, Richie received the Kennedy Center Honors.[36] In October 2017, it was reported that Richie had secured the rights to produce a Curtis Mayfield biopic.[37]

On March 25, 2019, Richie announced a 33-date tour across North America for the summer. His 'Hello Tour' started in May at Arlington's KAABOO Festival and ran through August.[38]

In May 2023, Richie was invited to be a headline act at Windsor Castle for the Coronation Concert, in celebration of the Coronation of Charles III and Camilla.[39] Richie is the First Global Ambassador and First Chairman of the Global Ambassador Group for the Prince's Trust.[40]

Popularity in the Arab world edit

Richie is a popular musician in various Arab states,[41][42] and has performed in Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Libya.[43] John Berman for ABC News reported in 2006 that "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." Berman wrote that Richie said he was told that Iraqi civilians were playing "All Night Long" the night U.S. tanks invaded Baghdad. Richie was against the war and has said he would like to perform in Baghdad someday.[43]

Personal life edit

Richie performing in 2019

On October 18, 1975, Richie married his college sweetheart, Brenda Harvey. In 1983, the couple informally adopted Nicole Camille Escovedo (now Nicole Richie), the two-year-old daughter of a member of Richie's band, who is also the niece of drummer Sheila E. The Richies raised Nicole as their daughter and adopted her legally when she was nine years old.[44]

In June 1988, Harvey was arrested and charged with corporal injury to a spouse, resisting arrest, trespassing, vandalism, battery, and disturbing the peace after she found Richie at Diane Alexander's Beverly Hills apartment.[45] Richie and Harvey divorced on August 9, 1993, after nearly 18 years of marriage.[23] Richie married Diane Alexander on December 21, 1995.[23] They have a son, Miles Brockman Richie[46] (born May 27, 1994),[23] and a daughter, Sofia Richie (born August 24, 1998). The marriage ended in 2004.[47]

Richie suffered prolonged throat problems and had surgery four times in four years before being told by conventional doctors that he could lose his singing career. He then turned to a holistic doctor who said the problem was simply acid reflux caused by foods Richie was eating before going to bed.[48]

Richie became a grandfather in 2008 when Nicole Richie gave birth to a baby girl with Joel Madden, lead singer of the rock band Good Charlotte. Richie's second grandchild was born to the couple in 2009.[49]

Richie is a Freemason.[50]

Richie helped to raise over $3.1 million for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.[51] Richie told the crowd that his grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer in her 80s, but that she survived and lived until she was 103 years old. He stated that she was his enduring symbol of hope and his reason for becoming a breast cancer activist.[52]

Awards and honors edit

Richie has won four Grammy Awards including Song of the Year in 1985 for "We Are the World" which he co-wrote with Michael Jackson, Album of the Year in 1984 for Can't Slow Down, Producer of the Year (Non-Classical) in 1984, and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for Truly in 1982.[53]

Richie was the first person to receive an RIAA diamond album award.[54]

Richie has been nominated for two Golden Globe awards and won one. In 1982, he was nominated for Best Original Song for the film Endless Love. In 1986, he was nominated and won the award for Best Original Song for the song "Say You, Say Me", featured in the film White Nights.[6] This song also won the Academy Award for Best Original Song.

Tours edit

Headlining edit

Discography edit

Solo albums edit

With Commodores edit

Filmography edit

Television edit

Year Title Role Notes
2007 The Simpsons Himself (voice) Episode "He Loves to Fly and He D'ohs"
2011 Who Do You Think You Are? Himself Episode: "Lionel Richie"
2012 Sport Relief 2012 Barman Sketch: "Mo Farah and Misery Bear"
2014 Oprah's Master Class Himself Episode: "Lionel Richie"
2018–present American Idol Himself Judge, Season 16–present
2019 American Housewife Himself Episode: "American Idol"
2020 Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time Himself Episode: "Match 1"
2022 Jeopardy! Himself Contestant; One episode

Film edit

Year Title Role Notes
1977 Scott Joplin The Minstrel Singers Credited as The Commodores
1978 Thank God It's Friday Himself with The Commodores
1991 Madonna: Truth or Dare Himself Documentary
1996 The Preacher's Wife Britsloe
1998 Pariah Lavender Mob
2019 The Black Godfather Himself Documentary
2022 Studio 666 Himself
2024 The Greatest Night in Pop Himself Documentary

See also edit

References edit

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  46. ^ Spelling of name found on the California Birth Index 1905–1995, under RICHIE, MILES BROCKMAN, on May 27, 1994, in Los Angeles County, California.
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External links edit