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Lionel Richie (born June 20, 1949) is an American singer-songwriter,
musician, record producer and actor. From 1968, he was a member of the
musical group Commodores signed to Motown Records. Richie made his solo
debut in 1982 with the album Lionel Richie and number-one hit "Truly".
Birth name Lionel Brockman Richie, Jr.
Born (1949-06-20) June 20, 1949 (age 62)
Tuskegee, Alabama, United States
Genres Soul, R&B, pop, pop rock, country
Occupations Singer-songwriter, instrumentalist, record producer, actor
Instruments Vocals, piano/keyboards, saxophone
Years active 1967–present
Labels Island, MCA, Motown
Associated acts Diana Ross, Commodores, Nicole Richie, Alabama (band),
Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Luther Vandross, Michael Jackson, Janet
Jackson, Patti Labelle, USA for Africa, Jason Derulo, Natasha
Bedingfield, Kenny Rogers, Akon
Born in Tuskegee, Alabama, Richie grew up on the campus of Tuskegee
Institute. His grandfather's house was across the street from the
home of the president of the college. His family moved to Joliet,
Illinois, where he graduated from Joliet Township High School, East
Campus. A star tennis player in Joliet, he accepted a tennis scholarship
to attend Tuskegee Institute, and graduated with a major in economics.
After receiving his undergraduate degree from Tuskegee, Richie briefly
attended graduate school at Auburn University. He is a member of Kappa
Kappa Psi and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.
As a student in Tuskegee, Richie formed a succession of R&B groups in
the mid-1960s. In 1968 he became a singer and saxophonist with the
Commodores. They signed a recording contract with Atlantic Records in
1968 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
By the late 1970s he had begun to accept songwriting commissions from
other artists. He composed "Lady" for Kenny Rogers, which hit #1 in
1980, and produced Rogers's album Share Your Love the following year.
Richie and Rogers maintained a strong friendship in later years. Latin
jazz composer and salsa romantica pioneer La Palabra enjoyed
international success with his cover of "Lady," which was played at
Latin dance clubs. 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. He 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. In 1984, Richie performed “All Night Long” at the closing
ceremony of the XXIII Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
Several more Top 10 hits followed, the most successful of which was the
ballad "Hello" (1984), 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" (#3), "Running with the Night" (#7) and "Penny
Lover" (#8). Now described by one critic as "the black Barry Manilow,"
in 1985 Richie wrote and performed a suitably soothing theme song, "Say
You, Say Me," for the film White Nights, winning an Oscar for his
efforts as well as reaching #1 on the U.S. charts and staying there for
four weeks, making it 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" (U.S. #1), "Dancing on the Ceiling" (U.S. #2), "Ballerina Girl"
(U.S. #7), and "Se La" (U.S. #20), Richie's most recent U.S. Pop Top
Twenty hit. The title selection was accompanied by a video directed by
Stanley Donen, which drew inspiration from Royal Wedding,[citation
needed] a 1951 Fred Astaire film Donen had directed. The critical
consensus was that this album represented nothing more than a
consolidation of his previous work, though Richie's collaboration with
the country group Alabama on "Deep River Woman" did break new ground. By
1987, Richie was exhausted from his work schedule and after a
controversial year laid low, taking care of his father in Alabama. His
father, Lionel Sr., died in 1990. Richie made his return to recording
and performing following the release of his first greatest-hits
collection, Back to Front, in 1992.
Since then, his ever-more-relaxed schedule has kept his recording and
live work to a minimum. He broke the silence in 1996 with Louder Than
Words, on which he resisted any change of style or the musical
fashion-hopping of the past decade, sticking instead with his chosen
path of well-crafted soul music, which in the intervening years has
become known as Contemporary R&B.
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 United States.
Since 2004, he has produced a total of six Top 40 singles in the UK. On
March 2011, Richie is to tour Australia next year and is scheduled to
perform at several winery events in March 2011.
Long-lasting popularity and later career
In 2002, Richie's song "Running with the Night" was featured on the
Rockstar North video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City though the song
was removed from later versions of the game. In 2004, he appeared on
Canadian Idol as his songs were featured during a Canadian Idol week.
Later in 2004, he also appeared on the British motoring television
series Top Gear in the "Star in a Reasonably Priced Car" segment where
he was interviewed by host Jeremy Clarkson. During his lap, the Suzuki
Liana he was driving lost a wheel due to hard cornering.
In November 2005, Lionel Richie performed with Kenny Rogers on a CMT
Crossroads special. The show gave an informative insight into their
friendship both in and out of the music world. Richie was also the
headliner at a 2000 Fourth of July tribute concert with Fantasia Barrino
at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. On May 7, 2006, Richie performed on
the main stage (Acura Stage) at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage
Festival, replacing Antoine "Fats" Domino, who had fallen ill. Richie
released his eighth studio album entitled "Coming Home" on September 12,
2006. The first single of the album was "I Call It Love" and was
premiered in July 2006, becoming his biggest hit in the U.S. in ten
years. The album was an incredible success for Richie in the United
States, peaking at #6. His adopted daughter Nicole Richie stars in the
music video for this track.
On December 9, 2006, Richie hosted and performed live on the British
television show An Audience with Lionel Richie. Two months later, he
performed "Hello" on the 49th Grammy Awards show.
On November 25, 2007, he made a surprise appearance on the Australian
Idol grand finale performing "All Night Long (All Night)" at the Sydney
Opera House. Richie donated to Barack Obama's 2008 Presidential
On May 2, 2008, Lionel Richie was the 21st recipient of the George and
Ira Gershwin Lifetime Achievement Award at UCLA's annual Spring Sing. In
accepting the award, Richie said: "Forget about surviving 30 some odd
years in the music business, Lionel Richie survived 27 years of Nicole
Recently, he has announced that he would like to get The Commodores back
together soon, "or in the next 10 years no one will care."
On December 31, 2008, Richie performed in Times Square for the New
Year's Eve celebration and ball drop. He also performed on the 2009
season finale for American Idol with Danny Gokey.
A new album, Just Go was released in spring 2009 – around the time
Lionel confirmed there is to be a Commodores reunion in the near future.
On July 7, 2009, Richie performed "Jesus is Love" at Michael Jackson's
On May 30, 2010, Richie performed at the National Memorial Day Concert
in Washington D.C., singing "Stuck on You" and "America the
Beautiful." Richie himself is from a military family.
In Australia on October 2, 2010, Richie performed at the AFL Grand Final
Replay in the Pre-game entertainment to a sell out crowd and will also
play post match at AAMI Park.
Richie returned to Australia in 2011 where he and guest artist Guy
Sebastian toured Australia and New Zealand with concert tour dates
spread throughout the months of March and April 2011. Richie and
Guy Sebastian have recorded Richie's 1983 #1 single "All Night Long"
together, to raise money for Australian and New Zealand flood and
earthquake relief. Richie handpicked Sebastian to support him in
Australia and the pair will perform the song together at each
Popularity in the Arab world
In recent years, Richie has become a phenomenon in various Arab
states, and has performed in Morocco, Dubai, Qatar and
Libya. ABC News said, "Grown Iraqi men get misty-eyed by the mere
mention of his name. 'I love Lionel Richie,' they say". They can sing an
entire Lionel Richie song. According to Richie, he was told that Iraqi
civilians were playing "All Night Long" the night U.S. tanks invaded
Baghdad. Richie was against the war, but says he could see a day when he
would come and perform in Baghdad. "I would love to be here for
Richie married his college sweetheart, Brenda Harvey, on October 18,
1975. During their marriage, Lionel began a relationship with Diane
Alexander in 1986. In 1988 while separated, Brenda allegedly discovered
Richie and Alexander together in a Beverly Hills hotel room by saying
she was "room service", and breaking in the door. A confrontation ensued
and Brenda attacked both Richie and Diane brutally. Brenda was arrested
for spousal abuse, trespassing, assault towards Alexander, and
vandalism. Richie and Brenda divorced on August 9, 1993, after being
married 17 years.
In 1983 Lionel Richie and his wife, Brenda, informally adopted Nicole
Camille Escovedo, the two-year-old daughter of one of the members of
Lionel's band. They raised her as their daughter, Nicole Richie, and
adopted her legally when she was nine years old. Lionel Richie became a
grandfather on January 11, 2008, when Nicole Richie gave birth to a baby
girl, Harlow Winter Kate Richie Madden, with the lead
singer of Good Charlotte, Joel Madden; and again when she gave birth to
Sparrow James Midnight Madden on September 9, 2009.
Richie married Diane Alexander on December 21, 1995. They have a son,
Miles Brockman (born May 27, 1994), and a daughter, Sofia (born
August 24, 1998). Lionel and Diane Alexander divorced in January 2004.
In 2011 the NBC television program Who Do You Think You Are? did
research into Lionel Richie's genealogy and specifically looked at
information relating to one of Lionel's great-grandfathers, the father
of Lionel's maternal grandmother.
Lionel's great-grandfather was John Louis Brown (October 25, 1839 -
September 8, 1931), the bi-racial (mulatto) son of the widowed
81-year-old American-Revolutionary-War-fighter Dr. Morgan Brown
(January 13, 1758 - March 23, 1840). His mother was one of Dr.
Morgan Brown's negro slaves Mariah, who in his father's final years on
his farm in Tennessee was his live-in housekeeper and nurse. Born a
slave just like his mother, the baby John Louis Brown's ownership passed
to his much-older half-brother Judge Morgan W(elles) Brown (January 1,
1800 - March 7, 1853) after his father's death in 1840, as did the
ownership of his mother. Despite attempts by his father Dr. Morgan Brown
to free both John Louis and his mother Mariah in his will that had been
written before John Louis's birth in 1839, John Louis was never freed.
John Louis was, however, educated as per his father Dr. Morgan Brown's
wishes in his will, and against the mores and the laws of the time. The
educated John Louis became known as "Doc" and he took the Brown
surname. After the death of his half-brother in 1853 John Louis's
ownership had stayed within the family and he remained known as the
slave of Morgan W. Brown even though Judge Morgan Welles Brown was
deceased. John Louis then served as the slave,
non-combatant, personal-body-servant to his older nephew John
Claiborne Thompson (April 3, 1828 - February 2, 1872), the son of his
deceased half-sister Elizabeth Little Brown (February 2, 1792 - December
10, 1854), during John Claiborne Thompson's 12 months of service from
May 1861 to May 1862 in the American Civil War, as evidenced by John
Louis's application for a pension late in life. It has been
recorded that John Louis was wounded during the war, and that “He bore
dispatches to Felix Zollicoffer and performed many other duties of
service and responsibility.”
As an emancipated slave, in the 1880s and early 1890s John Louis Brown
became a Supreme Grand Archon (national leader) of the Knights of the
Wise Men, a fraternal organization that gave support and insurance to
the African-American community. He is also credited with writing the
rules, laws, and regulations for the group. The Knights of the Wise Men
was a precursor to the later civil rights movement.
In a declaration to the Court in Nashville, Tennessee in 1832 John Louis
Brown's father Dr. Morgan Brown claimed to have "a large family bible
now in my possession, with the names of my ancestors from their first
landing in America in the month of 1638." This suggests that John
Louis Brown's ancestors were among the early European settlers of what
became the United States of America. This family bible may have belonged
to the family of his ancestor Edward Browne who in 1668 in Maryland,
Virginia married Sarah Williams, the daughter of Morgan Williams
(there were at least five people called Morgan Williams who immigrated
to Virginia between 1639 and 1650). This Edward Browne is possibly
the son of an Edward Browne Snr. and his wife Ellinor. Edward Browne
Snr. appears to have arrived in Virginia in 1637 (after being sponsored
by a John Brodwell).
Lionel Richie's maternal grandmother, Adelaide Mary Brown (January 19,
1893 - November 30, 1996), was John Louis Brown's only known child. She
was fathered from his marriage on April 6, 1890 at the age of 50 to the
bi-racial (mulatto) teenage Volenderver Towson. The marriage floundered
in the early 1890s during the period that the Knights of the Wise Men
folded after suffering financially from the payment of many death
benefits after a smallpox epidemic in 1891, and the treasurer soon after
apparently disappearing with the remaining funds. A divorce was granted
on July 28, 1897. The only other marriage that is known about was a
marriage before 1924 to "a middle aged coloured woman who is trying to
run him off from home". He was a proud man, who despite falling upon
hard times was refusing to go to the poor house. In his last years
John Louis worked as a caretaker at Pleasant Gardens Cemetery, in the
city of Chattanooga where the Knights of the Wise Men had been based.
After dying of pneumonia at the age of 93, and he was buried there in
the paupers' section.
Breast cancer activist
Richie helped to raise over $3.1 million for the Breast Cancer Research
Foundation. He was the featured performer at the Foundation's Soirée
Bouquet, the annual spring gala.
Richie told the crowd that his grandmother was diagnosed with breast
cancer in her 80s, but survived and lived until she was 103 years old.
He stated that she was his enduring symbol of hope and his reason for
becoming a breast cancer activist.
In popular culture
Argentine-born soccer superstar, Lionel Messi, was named after
Richie appeared in NBC's Who Do You Think You Are? on March 4, 2011, and
found out his great-grandfather was the national leader of an early
African-American fraternal organization.
Lionel Richie (1982)
Can't Slow Down (1983)
Dancing on the Ceiling (1986)
Louder Than Words (1996)
Just for You (2004)
Coming Home (2006)
Just Go (2009)
1977: Scott Joplin (w/ The Commodores)
1978: Thank God It's Friday (w/ The Commodores)
1990: Running with the Night
1991: Truth or Dare (documentary)
1996: The Preacher's Wife
2007: The Simpsons (episode He Loves to Fly and He D'ohs)
2011: Who Do You Think You Are?
2011: Lionel Richie: Dancing On the Ceiling (Part of the BBC4
documentary series, Black Music Legends of the 1980s)
List of best-selling music artists
List of best-selling music artists in the United States
References and notes
1.^ Huey, Steve. "Lionel Richie Biography". allmusic.
March 4, 2011.
2.^ "Prominent Members of Kappa Kappa Psi". Kkpsi.org.
http://www.kkpsi.org/prominentmembers.asp. Retrieved 2012-03-17.
3.^ "Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity". Psuchronicles.com. 2011-10-05.
4.^ a b c d IMDb Biography - Lionel Richie , retrieved July 26, 2007
5.^ Gustafsson, Fredrik (December 14, 2010). "Lionel Richie to Tour
Australia" . Retrieved December 14, 2010
6.^ "Richie accepts Gershwin Award". Newsroom.ucla.edu. May 2, 2008.
Retrieved May 24, 2011.
7.^ Graff, Gary (May 18, 2009). "Lionel Richie Ready to Go With Albums,
Tour, Commodores Reunion". Billboard.
Retrieved August 24, 2009.
8.^ Lionel Richie on YouTube
9.^ America, The Beautiful – Lionel Ritchie on YouTube
10.^ MEMORIAL DAY – America the Beautiful (Lionel Ritchie) on YouTube
11.^ a b CNN Newsroom: Lionel Richie and Memorial Day on YouTube
12.^ "Lionel Richie to play GF replay". September 29, 2010.
13.^ Lionel Richie and Guy Sebastian To Play A Day On The Green.
Undercover. Retrieved December 5, 2010
14.^ Recording of Lionel Richie performing with Guy Sebastian at NIB
Stadium, Perth, April 6, 2011 Retrieved April 10, 2011
15.^ Lionel Richie and Guy Sebastian have teamed up to record a charity
single for earthquake relief. Daily Telegraph, Sydney. Retrieved
February 26, 2011
16.^ Guy Sebastian and Lionel Richie work All Night Long for flood
relief. Undercover. Retrieved February 27, 2011
17.^ "Lionel Richie: The Key to Peace in the Middle East".
June 12, 2007.
18.^ "Richie Beloved in Iraq". June 2, 2006.
19.^ a b John Berman. "Baghdad's Lionel Richie Obsession".
http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/story?id=1974794. Retrieved June 12,
20.^ Spelling of name found on the California Birth Index 1905–1995,
under RICHIE, MILES BROCKMAN, on May 27, 1994 in Los Angeles County.
21.^ a b Running Time: 42:56. "Who Do You Think You Are – Episode Guide
– Lionel Richie". NBC.com.
Retrieved May 24, 2011.
22.^ The program Who Do You Think You Are? casts doubt as to whether Dr.
Morgan Brown is John Louis's father because of his advanced age and
suggests that John Louis's older half-brother Judge Morgan Welles Brown
may be his father. This goes against the documentary
evidence that Dr. Morgan Brown tried to provide for John Louis and his
mother in his will written before John Louis's birth; that he recorded
John Louis's birth in his diary (which it was extremely unusual for a
slave owner to do); and that his wishes that John Louis be freed from
slavery after his death were not followed by his son Judge Morgan Welles
Brown. It also goes against the biological evidence that a 81-year-old
man is quite capable of fathering a child.
23.^ More information on Dr. Morgan Brown can be found at ; ; ;
24.^ a b c d e Hamilton County Confederate Soldiers by Nat Hughes and
John Wilson, 2005 
25.^ John Louis Brown's Civil War Pension Application as shown on the
program Who Do You Think You Are?
26.^ "Black Confederate Pensioners After the Civil War".
27.^ Rana's comments at: /
28.^ "RW Pension for Morgan Brown". Boards.ancestry.com. http://boards.ancestry.com/localities.northam.usa.states.northcarolina.counties.anson/31/mb.ashx.
29.^ "Morgan Brown Genealogy". Wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com.
30.^ a b "Early Virginia Immigrants, 1623-1666". Evmedia.com.
http://www.evmedia.com/virginia/. Retrieved 2012-03-17.
31.^ "Edward Brown(e)Genealogy". Familytreemaker.genealogy.com.
32.^ Janice M. Sellers (2011-03-05). "Who Do You Think You Are? - Lionel
33.^ "John Louis Brown". Find a grave.
34.^ "Lionel Richie Charity Work". Looktothestars.org.
35.^ "Ataque ochentoso: tributo a la gran década , Juan Pablo Varsky".
Retrieved May 24, 2011.
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