Lionel Brockman Richie, Jr.
(born June 20, 1949) is an American singer-songwriter, musician, record producer and actor. Beginning in 1968, he was a member of the musical group Commodores signed to Motown Records. Richie made his solo debut in 1982 with the album Lionel Richie
and number-one hit "Truly".The CommodoresAs 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, Canada, Brazil, Australia, Japan, New Zealand and US pop music charts, and became one of Motown's biggest hits (in the US it sold 2 million copies and became a platinum single record). 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.
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. In 1984, Richie performed "All Night Long" at the closing 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 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 20 hit. The title selection was accompanied by a video directed by Stanley Donen, which drew inspiration from Royal Wedding
, a 1951 Fred Astaire film Donen had directed. 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
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.
In 2004, Richie appeared on Canadian Idol
as his songs were featured during a Canadian Idol
week.In November 2005, 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. 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 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 a big success for Richie in the United States, peaking at #6.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, 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."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 2009.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 Australia, both at the pre-game entertainment to a sell out crowd and also post-match at AAMI Park.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. Richie and Guy Sebastian have recorded Richie's 1983 #1 single "All Night Long" together, to raise money for Australian floods and New Zealand earthquake relief. Richie handpicked Sebastian to support him in Australia and the pair will perform the song together at each concert.On March 26, 2012, Richie released his tenth studio album, Tuskegee
. It features 13 of his hit songs performed as duets with country stars including Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles, Jason Aldean, Tim McGraw, Blake Shelton, Darius Rucker, Rascal Flatts, Kenny Chesney, Billy Currington, Little Big Town, Shania Twain, Kenny Rogers, Willie Nelson and Jimmy Buffett. In an interview with American Songwriter
Magazine, Lionel Richie stated "I’m just gonna stand next to them again with great country artists and hug them." After years of mediocre sales in the U.S., the album returned him to the top of the Billboard 200
chart, his first number one album there for more than 25 years, and achieved Platinum status within six weeks of release.On June 7, 2013, Richie announced on NBC's The Today Show that he will launch ‘All the Hits All Night Long’, his first North American tour in over a decade. The tour commenced on September 18 in Hollywood, Florida, and will end on October 18 in Los Angeles, California. Also in June 2013, Richie appeared in a television commercial for the Lion Nathan alcohol company to promote the "Tap King" draught beer product. Richie reportedly received A$$1.5 million to appear in the promotional campaign that depicts the musician singing "Hello" at a piano, while the device rests on top of the instrument.
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. 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, but says he could see a day when he would come and perform in Baghdad. "I would love to be here for that."FamilyOn October 18, 1975, Richie married his college sweetheart, Brenda Harvey. In 1983, Lionel Richie and his wife, Brenda Harvey, informally adopted Nicole Camille Escovedo, the two-year-old daughter of one of the members of Lionel's band. They raised her as their daughter, Nicole Richie, and adopted her legally when she was nine years old.In 1986, while still married to Harvey, Lionel began a relationship with Diane Alexander. He would later separate from Harvey and, in 1988, she allegedly discovered Richie and Alexander together in a Beverly Hills hotel room by saying she was "room service" and breaking in the door. A confrontation ensued and Harvey attacked both Richie and Alexander brutally. Harvey was arrested for spousal abuse, trespassing, assault towards Alexander, and vandalism. Richie and Harvey divorced on August 9, 1993, after being married nearly 18 years. Richie married Diane Alexander on December 21, 1995. They have a son, Miles Brockman (born May 27, 1994), and a daughter, Sofia (born August 24, 1998). Richie and Alexander divorced in January 2004.Lionel Richie became a grandfather on January 11, 2008, when Nicole Richie 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.
On March 4, 2011, Richie appeared on NBC's Who Do You Think You Are?.
The program did research into Lionel Richie's genealogy and found out that his great-grandfather (the father of his mother's mother) was the national leader of an early African-American fraternal organization.Lionel's great-grandfather was John Louis Brown (October 25, 1839 – September 8, 1931), the bi-racial possible son of the widowed 81-year-old American-Revolutionary-War-fighter Dr. Morgan Brown or his son, Judge Morgan Welles Brown. (January 13, 1758 - March 23, 1840). His mother was one of Dr. Morgan Brown's slaves Mariah, who in his father's final years on his farm in Tennessee was his live-in housekeeper and nurse. Born a slave just like his mother, the baby John Louis Brown's ownership passed to his father/much-older half-brother Judge Morgan W(elles) Brown (January 1, 1800 - March 7, 1853) after his father's death in 1840, as did the ownership of his mother. Despite attempts by his father Dr. Morgan Brown to free both John Louis and his mother Mariah in his will that had been written before John Louis's birth in 1839, John Louis was never freed. John Louis was, however, educated as per his father Dr. Morgan Brown's wishes in his will, and against the mores and the laws of the time. The educated John Louis became known as "Doc" and he took the Brown surname.After the death of his father/half-brother in 1853 John Louis's ownership had stayed within the family and he remained known as the slave of Morgan W. Brown even though Judge Morgan Welles Brown was deceased. John Louis then served as the slave, non-combatant, personal-body-servant to his older nephew John Claiborne Thompson (April 3, 1828 - February 2, 1872), the son of his deceased half-sister Elizabeth Little Brown (February 2, 1792 - December 10, 1854), during John Claiborne Thompson's 12 months of service from May 1861 to May 1862 in the American Civil War, as evidenced by John Louis's application for a pension late in life. It has been recorded that John Louis was wounded during the war, and that “He bore dispatches to Felix Zollicoffer and performed many other duties of service and responsibility.”As an emancipated slave, in the 1880s and early 1890s John Louis Brown became a Supreme Grand Archon (national leader) of the Knights of the Wise Men, a fraternal organization that gave support and insurance to the African-American community. He is also credited with writing the rules, laws, and regulations for the group. The Knights of the Wise Men was a precursor to the later civil rights movement.In a declaration to the court in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1832 John Louis Brown's father, Dr. Morgan Brown, claimed to have "a large family bible now in my possession, with the names of my ancestors from their first landing in America in the month of 1638." This suggests that John Louis Brown's ancestors were among the early European settlers of what became the United States of America. This family bible may have belonged to the family of his ancestor Edward Browne who in 1668 in Maryland, Virginia married Sarah Williams, the daughter of Morgan Williams (there were at least five people called Morgan Williams who immigrated to Virginia between 1639 and 1650). This Edward Browne is possibly the son of an Edward Browne Snr. and his wife Ellinor. Edward Browne Snr. appears to have arrived in Virginia in 1637 (after being sponsored by a John Brodwell).Lionel Richie's maternal grandmother, Adelaide Mary Brown (January 19, 1893 – November 30, 1996), was John Louis Brown's only known child. She was fathered from his marriage on April 6, 1890, at the age of 50 to the bi-racial teenage Volenderver Towson. The marriage floundered in the early 1890s during the period that the Knights of the Wise Men folded after suffering financially from the payment of many death benefits after a smallpox epidemic in 1891, and the treasurer soon after apparently disappearing with the remaining funds. A divorce was granted on July 28, 1897. The only other marriage that is known about was a marriage before 1924 to "a middle aged coloured woman who is trying to run him off from home". He was a proud man, who despite falling upon hard times was refusing to go to the poor house. In his last years John Louis worked as a caretaker at Pleasant Gardens Cemetery, in the city of Chattanooga where the Knights of the Wise Men had been based. After dying of pneumonia at the age of 93 he was buried there in the paupers' section.
Breast cancer activist
Richie helped to raise over $3.1 million for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. He was the featured performer at the Foundation's Soirée Bouquet, the annual spring gala, in 2003.Richie told the crowd that his grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer in her 80s, but 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.