Lionel Brockman Richie Jr. was born in Tuskegee, Alabama, in 1949. He was raised on the campus of Tuskegee Institute where his grandfather worked. He received a tennis scholarship and attended Tuskegee Institute where he graduated with a degree in economics.
During the mid 1960’s, Lionel was a member of a number of R&B groups. He joined The Jays in 1968 as their vocalist and saxophonist. Because the name The Jays was too close to The O’Jays, they changed their name to The Commodores. Other original members in The Commodores included, William King, Thomas McClary, Milan Williams, Ronald LaPread, and Walter “Clyde” Orange.
Motown Records signed The Commodores to be an opening act for The Jackson Five, but soon they became an extremely popular soul group on their own.
By the early 1980’s, Lionel was penning songs for other artists, including, Kenny Rogers, who took Lionel’s composition “Lady” to number one on Billboard’s Singles Charts. He was also recording solo in the early eighties and he officially left The Commodores in 1983. He was replaced with Skyler Jett as the lead singer.
In 1985, he teamed with Michael Jackson to write and record “We Are The World” as part of the USA For Africa ensemble.
On the charts, Lionel, as a solo artist and with The Commodores hit the Top 40 charts thirty times and went to number one on seven occasions. Here are the Top 10 Lionel Richie hits and the Top 10 Commodores hits, according to Billboard’s Weekly Top 40 charts.
1. Endless Love – 1981 – Lionel’s first solo effort was actually a duet with Diana Ross, from the film of the same title and went to number one for nine weeks.
2. All Night Long (All Night) – 1983 – He performed this #1 song at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles and, more recently, on the finale of American Idol in 2009.
3. Say You, Say Me – 1985 – More movie music, this time from the film “White Knights” starring Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines.
4. Hello – 1984 – The third single from the “Can’t Slow Down” album, which spawned five Top 10 singles.
5. Truly – 1982 – From his first solo album, this song won Lionel a Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocalist Performance.
6. Dancing On The Ceiling – 1986 – The music video to this song is reminiscent to the 1951 Fred Astaire film, “Royal Wedding” and features cameos by comedians Rodney Dangerfield and Cheech Marin.
7. Stuck On You – 1984 – In addition to this single going to number 3 on the pop charts, it also peaked at #24 on the Country charts.
8. You Are – 1983 – Co-written by his then wife, Brenda Harvey, this single reportedly features backing vocals by Richard Marx.
9. My Love – 1983 – Harmony vocals on this single is done by Lionel’s good friend, country singer, Kenny Rogers.
10. Running With The Night – 1984 – Guitar solo on this song is done by Steve Lukather from the group Toto.
1. Three Times A Lady – 1978 – Their biggest hit went to #1 for two weeks and was written by Robert Farthing, who was inspired when his father made a comment about his mother.
2. Still – 1979 – The Commodores only other number one single came from their “Midnight Magic” album.
3. Nightshift – 1985 – The only Top 10 single without Lionel Richie, the song is a dedication to singers Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson. A new version was recorded in 2010 to include Michael Jackson.
4. Oh No – 1981 – The last single featuring Lionel Richie on leads came from their “In The Pocket” album.
5. Easy – 1977 – This song has been covered by artists like Clarence Carter, Richie Havens, Taylor Hicks and Faith No More.
6. Sail On – 1979 – The only other Top 10 single from the “Midnight Magic” album.
7. Sweet Love – 1976 – Their first Top 10 single went to #5 on the weekly charts.
8. Brick House – 1977 – The lyrics were written by member and trumpet player William King’s wife, Shirley, and features drummer Walter “Clyde” Orange on lead vocals.
9. Just To Be Close To You – 1976 – From their “Hot On The Tracks” album.
10. Lady (You Bring Me Up) – 1981 – The first hit single from the “In The Pocket” album.
Not without controversy, in 1988, Lionel and Diane Alexander were attacked in a Beverly Hills hotel room, by Lionel’s college sweetheart and wife since 1975, Brenda Harvey. They divorced in 1993. During their marriage, they adopted Nicole Camille Escovedo and changed her name to Nicole Richie. Fashion designer and television personality, Nicole Richie is most noted for her role on the reality series, “The Simple Life.”
Over the years, Lionel has become an activist for breast cancer and has raised over three million dollars for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
Lionel Richie hasn’t had a top forty hit since 1992, but he continues to record and many of his singles do well on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary Charts and he still tours. He can be seen, in 2011, on the reality TV show, “Who Do You Think You Are?”
The Commodores also continue to record and tour, but never cracked the top 40 again, since “Nightshift.” They were inducted into The Vocal Group Hall Of Fame in 2003.
SOURCE: Joel Whitburn – The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits – Billboard Publishing