Lionel Brockman Richie, Jr. (born June 20, 1949) is an Academy Award and Grammy award-winning American singer, songwriter, record producer, and occasional actor, who has sold more than 100 million records.
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 back at Tuskegee Institute and later graduated with a major in economics.
Back as a student in Tuskegee, he formed a succession of R&B groups in the mid-1960s. In 1968 he became the lead 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, being schooled as a support act to the Jackson Five. The Commodores became established as a popular soul group. Their first several albums had a danceable, funky sound (with 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" and "Still".
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 he produced Rogers' Share Your Love album the following year. Richie and Rogers have maintained a strong friendship in later years. Also in 1981, Richie sang a duet with Diana Ross in the theme song for the film Endless Love. Issued as a single, the song topped the UK and U.S. pop music charts, and it became one of Motown's biggest hits. Its success encouraged Richie to branch out into a full-fledged solo career in 1982. His debut album, Lionel Richie, produced another chart-topping single, "Truly", which continued the style of his ballads with the Commodores.
He released his self-titled debut in 1982. 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 spawned 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. 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. He also collaborated with Michael Jackson on the charity single "We Are the World" by USA for Africa.
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", "Dancing on the Ceiling," and "Se La". 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 for his father in Alabama. His father, Lionel Sr., died in 1990. 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. Instead, he stayed with his chosen path of well-crafted soul music, which in the intervening years has become known as Contemporary R&B.
His albums in the 1990s such as Louder Than Words and Time all failed to achieve the previous decade's commercial success. Some of his recent work such as the album Renaissance has returned to his older style, achieving 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 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.
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.
On February 11, 2007, Richie performed his 80s hit song "Hello" on the televised 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 prominent member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
In November 2008, Richie appeared in South Africa for the radio show called The Rude Awakening on Highveld Stereo where Jeremy Mansfield created a show called Lionels where the 4 Rude Awakening DJs Paul Rotherham, Sam Cowen, Whackhead Simpson and Bongani Nxumalo all performed as contestants in this Idols style show called Lionels. Richie showed how much of a good sport he was when Sam Cowen threw off the wig she was wearing to declare how much she loved him, Richie went along with it - even running around the room so she could chase him.
On December 31, 2008, Richie performed in Times Square for the New Year's Eve celebration and ball drop.