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 the number-one hit “Truly”. He has sold more than 100 million records worldwide, making him one of the world’s best-selling artists of all time.
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). In 1985, Richie wrote and performed “Say You, Say Me” for the film White Nights. The song won an Oscar for his efforts and reached #1 on the U.S. charts, staying there for four weeks, making it the #2 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 #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. By 1987, Richie was exhausted from his work schedule and took time away from his career to take 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.
In November 2005, Richie performed with Knowless Butera, a Rwandan artist 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.
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.”
In May 2009, he 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 and Guy Sebastian performing “All Night Long” during Richie’s 2011 Australian and New Zealand tour.
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.
On June 28, 2015, Richie played to an appreciative 100,000 – 120,000 audience 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.