Birth and Early Life of Lionel Richie:
Lionel Richie was born June 20, 1949 in Tuskegee, Alabama. He grew up on the campus of the Tuskegee Institute until his family moved to Joliet, Illinois where Lionel Richie graduated from high school. He was a star tennis player in high school and accepted a scholarship to play tennis at the Tuskegee Institute. While a college student in Alabama in the late 1960's, Lionel Richie became interested in forming a musical group.
The group the Commodores was formed at Tuskegee from the aftermath of the breakup of two previous groups, the Mystics and the Jays, with Lionel Richie as saxophonist and vocalist. The new group headed to New York City in the early 1970's, gained a stellar live reputation, and eventually signed with Motown Records. Ultimately, the Commodores scored 7 top 10 pop hits in the 1970's including the #1 hits "Three Times a Lady" and "Still," both written by Lionel Richie.
Quote from Lionel Richie:
Speaking with Miss Funkyflyy about his transition from saxophone to vocals:
"The bass player that we (the Commodores) had before Ronald, Michael Gilbert, he was the lead singer and I became the singer, only because as I became a writer, I only sang the songs that I wrote, period. Ever so quietly, I just kept going to the front where I would put this horn down. Eventually, I would never pick up the horn and of course the rest is history. I never went back to the horn."
Lionel Richie Goes Solo:
Following the #1 success of Lionel Richie's songs "Three Times a Lady" and "Still" as well as the #1 pop song "Lady" he wrote for Kenny Rogers, Richie became the unintended focal point of the Commodores. This caused strain within the group, and, after spending 9 weeks at #1 on the pop charts in the "Endless Love" duet with Diana Ross, Lionel Richie decided to record as a solo artist. His first, self-titled album included 3 top 10 pop singles and the #1 smash "Truly."
Lionel Richie's Top Pop Hit Singles:
- All Night Long - 1983 - #1 (4 weeks)
- Say You, Say Me - 1985 - #1 (4 weeks)
- Hello - 1984 - #1 (2 weeks)
- Truly - 1982 - #1 (2 weeks)
- Dancing on the Ceiling - 1986 - #2
- Stuck on You - 1984 - #3
- You Are - 1983 - #4
- My Love - 1983 - #5
- Running With the Night - 1984 - #7
- Ballerina Girl - 1987 - #7
Can't Slow Down:
Lionel Richie's second solo album Can't Slow Down, released in 1983, became the biggest hit of his career. It sold over 10 million copies, included 5 top 10 hit singles, and was named Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards. Lionel Richie's worldwide pop stature was confirmed when he was invited to perform "All Night Long" at the closing ceremonies of the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
Dancing on the Ceiling:
During the period between albums, Lionel Richie and his wife Brenda began raising a 3-year-old girl named Nicole. She would later be legally adopted by the couple, and Nicole Richie has gained her own fame as an actor and author. Lionel Richie's third solo album Dancing on the Ceiling was released in 1986 following the #1 smash single "Say You, Say Me" from the movie White Nights. This album sold only 4 million copies and failed to produce a #1 single.
Trivia Fact About Lionel Richie:
Lionel Richie is one of the most popular pop music stars in Iraq.
Following Dancing on the Ceiling, Lionel Richie's recorded output slowed considerably. A 1992 greatest hits collection included the #1 r&b single "Do It To Me." A 4th studio album Louder Than Words finally appeared in 1996. It eventually sold over a million copies but failed to reach the top 20 on the album chart after the previous 3 albums all made the top 3. A string of albums met a similar fate until Lionel Richie's 8th solo album in 2006.
Lionel Richie's Comeback:
Lionel Richie pulled together a set of some of pop and r&b's most successful contemporary producers to record his 8th studio set Coming Home. Jermaine Dupri, Dallas Austin, and StarGate all lend their talents. The first single, "I Call It Love," produced and written by StarGate, has become Lionel Richie's most successful single in 10 years. It has reached the top 20 on Adult Contemporary, R&B, and Dance charts as well as making Richie's first appearance on the Billboard Hot 100 in 10 years. This comeback was punctuated by a top 10 debut for the album Coming Home making it Lionel Richie's highest charting album since Dancing on the Ceiling hit the top of the chart 20 years before in 1986. Coming Home was certified gold for sales.
Lionel Richie's next album, 2009's Just Go was less successful. However, three years later in 2012 he put together an album of re-recorded versions of his classic songs performed with major country artists. The result was his first #1 album since 1986.