BY WALTER OPINDE
On this date, 20th June, we celebrate the birthday of an African-American singer, actor, songwriter, and record producer, Lionel Brockman Richie, born in Tuskegee, Alabama. Richie grew up in the campus of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.
Born as Lionel Brockman Richie, Jr., he grew to become a music icon and an international superstar with 100 million albums sold worldwide, an Oscar winner, 4-time Grammy winner and 16-time American Music Award winner. Earlier on, Richie toyed with the idea of becoming a priest, but music proved to be his true calling. During his stay at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, Richie founded the Commodores, one of the most popular R&B acts of the 1970’s. He played the saxophone, performed some vocals and wrote songs for the group. He wrote the hit songs, ‘Easy’, ‘Brick House’ and ‘Three Times a Lady.’
In 1980, Lionel Richie left the Commodores to pursue a solo career. The following year, in 1981, his ‘Endless Love’ duet with Diana Ross quickly climbed the charts. By 1982, he released his self-titled debut album, which became a hit on the U.S. Billboard charts. During the same year, he won his first Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. Richie, in 1984, released his second album ‘Can’t Slow Down’ which featured two chart-topping hits ‘All Night Long’ and ‘Hello’. The success of his second album won him a Grammy for Best Album of the Year, which made him as one of the biggest stars of the 80’s music scene.
A couple of years after releasing ‘Dancing on the Ceiling’, Richie encountered a series of personal challenges and issues, which led him to take a break from music. Lionel Richie made his comeback by releasing the album ‘Louder Than Words’ in 1996. By 2012, Lionel had gone back to his Tuskegee roots by re-working some of the biggest hits as duets with country superstars such as Shaina Twain, Kenny Rogers, Willie Nelson, Tim McGraw, Blake Shelton, Jason Aldean, Darius Rucker, and Little Big Town. The album became one of the biggest milestones of his career after it reached No.1 on the Billboard Top 200 list and garnered critical acclaim.
Richie has been nominated for two Golden Globe awards and won one. In 1982, he was nominated for Best Original Song for the film Endless Love. In 1986, he was nominated and won the award for Best Original Song for the song “Say You, Say Me”, featured in the film White Nights. This song also won the Academy Award for Best Original Song. On 13th February, 2016, Lionel Richie was honored as the 2016 MusiCares Person of the Year at the star-studded Grammy Week Gala.
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