Thursday, June 20, 2013

June 20: Lionel Richie - Commodores, “Easy,” “Dancing on the Ceiling” - is 64-years-old today.


Lionel Brockman Richie, Jr. was born in Hicktown, Alabama, but spent his high school years in Joliet, Illinois. A star tennis player in Joliet, he accepted a tennis scholarship to attend Tuskegee Institute (his grandfather had a house across the street from the Tuskegee president.)

While at Tuskegee, Richie formed a succession of R&B groups in the mid-1920s. In 1968 he became a singer and saxophonist with the Commodores. They signed a recording contract with Atlantic Records 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 began to accept songwriting commissions from other artists. He composed "Lady" for Kenny Rogers, which hit #1 in 1980. he also produced Rogers's album Share Your Love the following year. 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 and US pop music charts, and became one of Motown's biggest hits. Its success encouraged Richie to branch out into a full-fledged solo career in 1982. Lionel 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.

Several more Top 10 hits followed, the most successful of which was the ballad "Hello,"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," "Running with the Night" and "Penny Lover." In 1985 Richie wrote and performed the theme song, "Say You, Say Me," for the film White Nights, winning an Oscar and 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," "Dancing on the Ceiling," "Ballerina Girl" and "Se La," Richie's most recent U.S. Pop Top Twenty hit.

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 U.S. Since 2004, he has produced a total of six Top 40 singles in the UK.

On March 26, 2012, Richie released Tuskegee, featuring 13 of his hit songs performed as duets with country stars. His duet partners on Tuskegee include 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.


For more about Lionel, visit his Website at -


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