Singer Lionel Richie turns 70

He has sold over 90 million records worldwide

Lionel RichieLionel Richie grew up on the campus of Tuskegee Institute where his grandfather worked. He attended the Alabama school on a tennis scholarship.

I knew him initially as a member of the soul group the Commodores. Early on, their songs were quite danceable. But eventually, Richie wrote and sang more sometimes syrupy ballads. It was probably inevitable that he’d become a solo artist in 1982, and he became even more commercially successful.

“Over the course of his musical career, Richie has sold over 90 million records worldwide, making him one of the world’s best-selling artists of all time. He has won four Grammy Awards including Song of the Year in 1985 for ‘We Are the World’ which he co-wrote with Michael Jackson…”

He composed “Lady” for Kenny Rogers, which hit #1 pop and CW in 1980 and he wrote and produced “Missing You” for Diana Ross (#10 Pop, #1 RB) in 1984.

“In 2016, Richie received the Songwriters Hall of Fame’s highest honor, the Johnny Mercer Award.” He received one of the Kennedy Center Honors in 2017, which he threatened to boycott if the White House resident attended.

I haven’t watched American Idol for over a dozen years. Yet I’m oddly pleased that he has been one of the judges for the past couple seasons. He is still touring; his “epic 33-date Hello Tour across North America” started May 10th and runs through August.”

Lionel Richie turns 70 on June 20.

Commodores

Brick House – #5 pop, #4 RB in 1977
Easy – #4 pop, #1 RB in 1977
Three Times A Lady – #1 pop AND RB for two weeks in 1978

Solo

Endless Love, with Diana Ross – #1 for nine weeks pop, #1 for seven weeks RB in 1981
All Night Long – #1 for four weeks pop, #1 for seven weeks RB in 1983
Hello – #1 for two weeks pop, #1 for three weeks RB in 1984
Say You, Say Me – #1 for four weeks pop, #1 for two weeks RB in 1985, won the Oscar for Best Song, from the movie White Nights
Dancing on the Ceiling – #2 for two weeks pop, #6 RB in 1986

Plus

We Are The World – USA for Africa, #1 for four weeks pop, #1 for two weeks RB in 1985, sold over four million copies in the US

TD Ameritrade TV Commercial, ‘All Evening Long’

His official website

(RB – soul/rhythm and blues; CW – country; stats from US Billboard charts)

Kennedy Center Honors: Lear, Estefan, Richie…

The Kennedy Center Honors, which took place on Sunday, December 3, will be aired on CBS-TV on Tuesday, December 26 from 9-11 p.m., EST.

Carmen de Lavallade
When the announcement of this year’s Kennedy Center Honors were first announced, I was afraid it might not take place at all. When Kennedy Center President Deborah Rutter called [Norman] Lear a few months ago to tell him about his selection, “Lear said he’d be thrilled to have it (at last!)”

But the television pioneer “just couldn’t abide the idea of standing in the White House shaking Trump’s hand. Days after the Kennedy Center announced this year’s honorees, Lear told reporters that he would boycott parts of the event.”

As it turned out, on August 19, 2017, “the White House announced that the President of the United States and the First Lady will not participate in 2017 Kennedy Center Honors activities.” The KCH reps were “grateful for this gesture.”

Norman Lear is the honoree I’m most familiar with. He was the creator and producer of several successful and groundbreaking TV sitcoms in the 1970s including All in the Family, Maude, Good Times, The Jeffersons, Sanford and Son, and Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, all of which I watched for most or all of their runs. And, at 95 he’s STILL working, putting out a new version of One Day at a Time, this iteration with a Hispanic cast.

I did not recognize the name Carmen de Lavallade, but I am quite familiar with two of her cohorts. She “is a multifaceted dancer, choreographer, actor, and teacher… De Lavallade brought [the late] Alvin Ailey to the studio for his first ballet class, which began a long career of collaboration between the two dance world giants.” Her late husband Geoffrey Holder “would choreograph works for [her], including her signature solo Come Sunday.” Here’s a recent profile of her on CBS Sunday Morning.

Lionel Richie has been a massively successful singer-songwriter, first with the group The Commodores (Easy, Brick House, Three Times a Lady) then as a solo artist (Truly, All Night Long, Hello). His duet with Diana Ross, Endless Love, spent nine weeks at #1 on the Billboard charts in 1981. He wrote Lady for Kenny Rogers, which reached #1 in 1980, and co-wrote the benefit single We Are the World in 1985. Richie was a staple on MTV in its early days.

In 2018, my wife and I will be seeing the musical On Your Feet at Proctors Theatre in Schenectady about the lives of Gloria Estefan and her husband Emilio. Their group, the Miami Sound Machine, was big in Latin America but took a bit longer to break into the US market. When the band recording more in English, they started charting with won radio DJs over, and had massive success with songs like Conga!, Anything for You, 1–2–3, and Bad Boy. Theirs is a story of Cuban immigrants who “brought a Latin-infused sound to the American mainstream.”

I was a little surprised to see LL Cool J on the list. It’s not that he hasn’t been enormously successful as a hip hop artist that has crossed over to the mainstream with songs like Around the Way Girl, Hey Lover, Doin It, Luv U Better and Control Myself. It’s that his name doesn’t usually pop up on the list of the best or most influential hip-hop artists. Still, he has segued that musical success into a thriving acting career. He currently appears on NCIS: Los Angeles, which I must admit I’ve never seen.

The Kennedy Center Honors, which took place on Sunday, December 3, will be aired on CBS-TV on Tuesday, December 26 from 9-11 p.m., EST.