Lionel Richie

Lionel Brockman Richie Jr. (born June 20, 1949) is an American singer, songwriter, musician, and television personality. During the 1970s, he recorded with the funk band the Commodores, and his solo career made him one of the most successful balladeers of the 1980s. Outside of his music career, he has served with Luke Bryan and Katy Perry as a judge for the singing competition American Idol since its move to ABC from the Fox network, since 2018.[1]

Lionel Richie
Lionel Richie in 2017.jpg
Richie receiving the 2017 Kennedy Center Honors
Lionel Brockman Richie Jr.

(1949-06-20) June 20, 1949 (age 72)
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • musician
Years active1968–present
Brenda Harvey
(m. 1975; div. 1993)
Diane Alexander
(m. 1995; div. 2004)
Children3, including Nicole and Sofia
Musical career
  • Vocals
  • saxophone
  • piano
Associated acts

Beginning in 1968, Richie began his music career as a member of the Commodores, who were 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".

Richie launched a solo career in 1982 and his 1982 debut solo album, Lionel Richie, contained three hit singles: the U.S. number-one song "Truly", and the top five hits "You Are" and "My Love". The album hit No. 3 on the music charts and sold over four million copies. His 1983 follow-up album, Can't Slow Down, sold over twice as many copies, propelling him into the first rank of international superstars. He also co-wrote the 1985 charity single "We Are the World" with Michael Jackson, which sold over 20 million copies.[2]

Over the course of his career, Richie has sold over 100 million records worldwide, making him one of the world's best-selling artists of all time.[3] He won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year for Can't Slow Down, and his other Grammy Awards include Producer of the Year (Non-Classical) in 1985 and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for "Truly" in 1983.[4] Richie has also 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 won the Golden Globe award for Best Original Song for "Say You, Say Me", featured in the film White Nights.[5] The song also won the Academy Award for Best Original Song. In 2016, Richie received the Songwriters Hall of Fame's highest honor, the Johnny Mercer Award.[6]

Early lifeEdit

Richie was born on June 20, 1949, in Tuskegee, Alabama, the son of Lionel Brockman Richie Sr., a U.S. Army System Analyst, and Alberta R. Foster, a teacher.[7] On March 4, 2011, he appeared on NBC's Who Do You Think You Are?, which found out that his maternal great-grandfather was the national leader of an early African-American fraternal organization.[8] 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.[8]

Richie grew up on the campus of Tuskegee Institute,[9] and graduated from Joliet Township High School, East Campus in Joliet, Illinois.[10] A star tennis player in Joliet,[11] he accepted a tennis scholarship to attend Tuskegee Institute, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in economics.[10]

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.[12][13] He is a member of Kappa Kappa Psi, a national honor fraternity for band members,[14] and an active life member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.[15][16]



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 penultimate #1 R&B with the song. By the late 1970s, Richie had begun to accept songwriting commissions from other artists. He composed "Lady" for 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 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.[citation needed] 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.

Solo careerEdit

Richie performing in 2006

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 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 he 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), as well as writing & producing "Missing You" for former labelmate and duet partner Diana Ross (#10 Pop, #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. #1), "Dancing on the Ceiling" (U.S. #2), "Love Will Conquer All" (U.S. #9), "Ballerina Girl" (U.S. #7), and "Se La" (U.S. #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 careerEdit

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 big 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."[17]

In May 2009, Richie announced that he would like to get The Commodores back together soon.[18] An album, Just Go, was released in 2009. On July 7, 2009, Richie performed "Jesus is Love" at Michael Jackson's memorial service.[19]

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.[20] Richie and Guy Sebastian recorded Richie's 1983 number 1 single "All Night Long" together to raise money for Australian floods and New Zealand earthquake relief.[21][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.[22][23] 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 since Dancing on the Ceiling, and achieved platinum status within six weeks of release.[citation needed]

Ritchie performing in 2019

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.[24] In September 2017, ABC announced that Richie would be a judge for the revival of American Idol.[25]

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.[26] On December 3, 2017, Richie received the Kennedy Center Honors.[citation needed]

In October 2017, it was reported that Richie had secured the rights to produce a Curtis Mayfield biopic.[27]

On March 25, 2019, Richie announced a 33-date tour across North America for the summer. His 'Hello Tour' kicked off May 10 at Arlington's KAABOO Festival and runs through August.[28]

Popularity in the Arab worldEdit

Richie is a popular musician in various Arab states,[29][30] and has performed in Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Libya.[31] 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.[31]

Personal lifeEdit

Richie performing in 2011

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 Lionel's band who was also the niece of drummer Sheila E. The Richies raised Nicole as their daughter and adopted her legally when she was nine years old.[32]

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.[33] Richie and Harvey divorced on August 9, 1993, after nearly 18 years of marriage.[15] Richie married Diane Alexander on December 21, 1995.[15] They have a son, Miles Brockman[34] (born May 27, 1994),[15] and a daughter, Sofia Richie (born August 24, 1998). The marriage ended in 2004.[35]

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 claimed that the problem was simply acid reflux caused by foods Richie was eating before going to bed.[36]

Richie became a grandfather in 2008 when Nicole Richie gave birth to a baby girl with the lead singer of Good Charlotte, Joel Madden. Richie's second grandchild was born to the couple in 2009.[37]

Breast cancer activismEdit

Richie helped to raise over $3.1 million for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.[38] 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.[39]

Awards and honorsEdit

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.[4]

Richie was the first person to receive an RIAA diamond album award.[40]

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.[5] This song also won the Academy Award for Best Original Song.



  • All The Hits, All Night Long Tour (2016)[41]


Studio albums


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Goldberg, Lesley (August 5, 2019). "'American Idol' Judges Close Deals to Return for Season 3 on ABC". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved August 5, 2019.
  2. ^ Leopold, Todd (January 28, 2015). "'We Are the World' at 30: Where are they now?". CNN. Retrieved January 8, 2017.
  3. ^ May 8, Stephen L. BettsPublished; 2012. "Lionel Richie, 'Tuskegee' Album Certified Platinum". The Boot. Retrieved June 3, 2021.CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ a b "Lionel Richie : Grammy Awards". Grammy Awards. Retrieved July 24, 2014.
  5. ^ a b "Lionel Richie : Golden Globe Awards". Golden Globes. Archived from the original on October 6, 2014. Retrieved July 24, 2014.
  6. ^ Rothman, Michael (June 10, 2016). "Lionel Richie, Chic's Nile Rodgers and More Enter Songwriters Hall of Fame". ABC News. Retrieved January 8, 2017.
  7. ^ Richie, Lionel. Who Do You Think You Are?, March 4, 2011.
  8. ^ a b Hodapp, Christopher L. (March 5, 2011). "Lionel Ritchie and the Knights of Wise Men". Freemasons for Dummies. Retrieved November 6, 2015.
  9. ^ Huey, Steve. "Lionel Richie Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved March 4, 2011.
  10. ^ a b Lacher-Feldman, Jessica (January 16, 2017). "Lionel Richie". Encyclopedia of Alabama. Retrieved February 15, 2018.
  11. ^ "My Life in Pictures: Lionel Richie". People. Retrieved March 20, 2019.
  12. ^ "Lionel Richie Doesn't Know How to Read or Write Music?". April 17, 2016. Retrieved September 18, 2017.
  13. ^ Fussman, Cal (March 22, 2012). "Lionel Richie: What I've Learned". Esquire. Retrieved February 9, 2015.
  14. ^ "Prominent Members of Kappa Kappa Psi". Archived from the original on July 16, 2011. Retrieved March 17, 2012.
  15. ^ a b c d "Biography – Lionel Richie". Retrieved July 26, 2007.
  16. ^ "Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity". October 5, 2011. Retrieved March 17, 2012.
  17. ^ "Richie accepts Gershwin Award". May 2, 2008. Archived from the original on September 27, 2011. Retrieved May 24, 2011.
  18. ^ Graff, Gary (May 18, 2009). "Lionel Richie Ready to Go With Albums, Tour, Commodores Reunion". Billboard. Retrieved August 24, 2009.
  19. ^ "Looking back at Michael Jackson's memorial". Orange County Register. July 7, 2009. Retrieved January 10, 2019.
  20. ^ Paul Cashmere, "Lionel Richie and Guy Sebastian To Play A Day On The Green" Archived March 20, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, Undercover, December 5, 2010. Retrieved December 5, 2010
  21. ^ "".
  22. ^ Melissa Coker, "Lionel Richie's Countrified 'Tuskegee' Comes to Stores Today – Slew of TV Spots Join In Celebrating Its Songs" Archived June 23, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. Angry Country, March 26, 2012. Retrieved April 11, 2012
  23. ^ Evan Schlansky (March 23, 2012). "Reinventing Lionel Richie". American Songwriter. Retrieved April 15, 2021.
  24. ^ "Lionel Richie storms album chart". BBC News. July 5, 2015. Retrieved July 5, 2015.
  25. ^ "Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan to join 'American Idol' as judges".
  26. ^ "Lucinda Williams Receives Honorary Doctorate From Berklee". The Boot. Retrieved April 6, 2020.
  27. ^ Kreps, Daniel (October 11, 2017). "Lionel Richie to Produce Curtis Mayfield Biopic". Rolling Stone. Retrieved April 6, 2020.
  28. ^ ConcertFix. "Lionel Richie Tour Dates & Concert Tickets 2019". ConcertFix. Retrieved March 26, 2019.
  29. ^ "Lionel Richie: The Key to Peace in the Middle East". NPR. December 4, 2006. Retrieved June 12, 2007.
  30. ^ "Richie Beloved in Iraq". June 2, 2006.
  31. ^ a b John Berman. "Baghdad's Lionel Richie Obsa ssion". ABC News. Retrieved June 12, 2007.
  32. ^ "Nicole Richie's Surprising Adoption Story".
  33. ^ "Summertime, and the Loving Is Anything but Easy for Lionel, Melvin and Stephanie". People. 30 (3). July 18, 1988.
  34. ^ Spelling of name found on the California Birth Index 1905–1995, under RICHIE, MILES BROCKMAN, on May 27, 1994, in Los Angeles County.
  35. ^ "Most Expensive Celeb Divorces > Lionel & Diane Richie". (slideshow) E! Online (NBC Universal). Retrieved August 14, 2016.
  36. ^ "Richie Thrilled With Acid Reflux Diagnosis". September 13, 2006.
  37. ^ Jessica Herndon (September 13, 2009). "Lionel Richie: 'Sparrow Looks Just Like Harlow'". People. Retrieved April 15, 2021.
  38. ^ "Easy like Lionel Richie". harvard. December 6, 2011. Retrieved March 20, 2019.
  39. ^ "Lionel Richie Charity Work". Retrieved March 17, 2012.
  40. ^ "Gold & Platinum". Retrieved December 6, 2018.
  41. ^ Theletsane, Winnie (March 22, 2016). "Lionel Richie seals SA tour with a promise". Eyewitness News. Retrieved July 2, 2016.

External linksEdit