MOMENTOUS MONDAYS: ICONIC & IDENTITY-BUILDING ARTISTS OF ALL TIME – WEEK 2: LIONEL RICHIE

Throughout the past few years, my brother and I embarked on a musical and lyrical journey like no other. We boldly, fearlessly, and maybe naively, decided to write about 100 artists (and a further 50) whom we deemed to be the most ‘influential’ of all time, and also who we believed to be burgeoning and up-and-coming artists who would be influential within 5-10 years. These artists can be viewed here, and you can read them all to your heart’s content, and at your own pace. These artists can be conversation starters at the dinner table, they all can be hotly debated, agreed upon and disagreed upon. We wrote about artists who probably would have been on anyone and everyone’s list (Avril Lavigne, U2, Phil Collins, John Mayer, Michael Bublé, OneRepublic, Ed Sheeran, Christina Aguilera, Taylor Swift, Kylie Minogue, Robbie Williams, Alicia Keys, Sheryl Crow, Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban, Tina Arena, Backstreet Boys, One Direction, Coldplay, Jennifer Lopez, John Legend, Tim McGraw, Justin Bieber, Beyonce and Mariah Carey to name a few), while we wrote about 20 or so Christian/worship artists, who probably would not have been present on any other list- sad to say. Some artists were influential within their genres and could have been argued either way (Jason Mraz, Seal, Jackie Evancho, Alanis Morrisette, Gwen Stefani, Hoobastank, Natalie Imbruglia, Hanson, Colbie Caillat, Goo Goo Dolls, Pentatonix, Train, Mandy Moore, Owl City, The McClymonts); while we did not include many rap or gospel artists, nor pop artists of today. Some artists we claimed to be up-and-coming, but they weren’t (Matthew West, Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, Little Mix), while others like The New Respects, Jess Glynne, and Conrad Sewell… well frankly they kind of faded, and are they really up and coming when they may not be popular or influential? Others like Maddie & Tae, Thomas Rhett, NF, Dua Lipa, Sabrina Carpenter, Sofia Carson, Mickey Guyton, Zach Williams, Tori Kelly, Lauren Daigle, Maren Morris, Kelsea Ballerini, Chris Stapleton and Ava Max (to name a few) are indeed ‘up-and-coming’ and actually fit the scope of the 50 artists; while Cory Asbury is indeed certain to be influential… but we just spoke about the controversy of “Reckless Love” the song for virtually the whole blog. There were pluses and minuses of both lists. And quite frankly, if any of you have a different 100 or a different 50- I would not blame you at all. After all, that’s what the honourable mentions are for- you can read them here, here, and here.

Yet just this past week, we’ve started on a new blog series. And this is why. Influential artists of all time, and influential artists of the future- well, they can all be subjective. Some artists within the 100 aren’t negotiable, but the entire makeup of the list is fluid. Because there are thousands upon thousands of artists that can be impacting, important, nostalgic, and sentimental to each individual person, as well as within the confines of their musical genre… there literally can be thousands upon thousands of lists- of which each would be valid. Originally, we didn’t plan to do this new blog series. Most Iconic and Identity-Building Artists Of All Time. Originally, the plan was to include artists like the Beatles, Queen, Celine Dion, ABBA, Elton John, Elvis Presley, Cher, Billy Joel, Fleetwood Mac, and others- in and amongst the list of 100 artists. And yet… I’d say that may have presented way more problems than solutions. Within a list of 100 (or any arbitrary number) of so-called influential artists; you could argue for one list or another. And both arguments would we incredibly convincing. Yet for all of the artists in the world, there are a select few that are timeless. That are classic artists. There are artists who stand the test of time and who are iconic. Artists who cannot be debated and artists who form the basis for all of our values, morals, and beliefs. Have you ever heard a song and declared that artist inspiring and special- even if they were a one hit wonder? Have you ever loved a song and had it change your life so much, so that now you believe that your world view is based around this song or this artist? Over the next while, Jon and I will be taking alternate weeks, and writing about artists whom the world, with no question or disagreement, believes are iconic and identity building. These 50 artists form the backbone of our global industry and without them; I reckon we’d be far worse off as a nation and as a globe. Jon blogged about Celine Dion last week, and about her smash hit songs like “My Heart Will Go On”, “Because You Loved Me”, “The Prayer” and “All By Myself”; but now, it’s time for me to write about Lionel Richie. Most people nowadays- the zoomers and generation alpha; well they probably know Lionel from him being a judge on American Idol (alongside Luke Bryan and Katy Perry). However, Lionel is more than his stint on American Idol as a judge. He was massive in the 80’s, and it was all because of one song.

Yep, we are going to write about “Hello”- Lionel’s biggest hit, which what I consider to be one of the creepiest songs ever alongside “Every Breath You Take” from The Police. But before we get there, and probably spend virtually the whole blog dissecting this impacting yet harrowing and concerning song and how it shaped an entire generation; let’s dive into a brief recap on Lionel’s life and achievements, shall we? We can all read about Lionel on Wikipedia, about how he came into being a singer and a songwriter as a career; but for those who want the cliff notes right here, how about we begin right now? Born in 1949, Lionel was an integral member of The Commodores– an American funk and soul band. Lionel created 9 albums with the Commodores from 1974 until 1981 when he went solo, and as a solo artist he garnered plenty of awards and nominations. His heyday was in the 80’s- and though he has faded somewhat and become less of a relevant artist- his work and his hits are still timeless, and are still popular and influential, iconic and identity-building today.

Lionel’s most celebrated and talked about albums remain his first three- his self-titled album, Can’t Slow Down, and Dancing On The Ceiling. Music genre-wise, Lionel has stayed very much in his ‘lane’- contemporary R&B. this might have been fine with his first three albums, but when he released his 4th album Louder Than Words in 1996, this release failed to chart. The same went for Time– Lionel’s albums in the late 1990s failed to match the commercial success of his earlier work; while some of his recent albums, such as Renaissance and Just for You, have returned to his older style and achieved success in Europe but only modest notice in the United States. In 2012, Lionel released a collaboration re-recording project called Tuskegee. It’s essentially a ‘best of project’ but re-recorded and modernised, and that project topped the charts… but maybe that was because Lionel recorded new versions of popular songs from his first three albums. Needless to say; Lionel’s popularity waned after album number 3, but he still deserves a place in this blog series. If you’re unconvinced, then read on.

Throughout Lionel’s solo career, he became known as one of the most successful balladeers of the 1980s; and as he has sold over 100 million records worldwide, this has made him one of the world’s best-selling artists of all time. Lionel has won four Grammy Awards, including Song of the Year for “We Are the World” (which he co-wrote with Michael Jackson- more on that song later!), and Album of the Year for Can’t Slow Down. “Endless Love” (a duet with Dianna Ross), was nominated for an Academy Award; while “Say You, Say Me” won both the Academy Award and the Golden Globe award for Best Original Song. In 2016, Richie received the Songwriters Hall of Fame’s highest honour, the Johnny Mercer Award. Just this year, Lionel was inducted into the Black Music & Entertainment Walk of Fame and he also received the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song by the Library of Congress. Lionel was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year; while in 2017, he was honoured at Berklee College of Music during its 2017 commencement concert- graduating students performed a medley of his discography. Lionel was also awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Music, and he also received the Kennedy Center Honors in 2017. And that… is a lot of awards right here. That’s not even the half of all of the awards, and so if you want to peruse slowly or skim quickly through these awards, then look no further than this comprehensive Wikipedia page. With Lionel also winning four Grammy Awards (Song of the Year in 1985 for “We Are the World”- co-written with Michael Jackson, Album of the Year in 1984 for Can’t Slow Down, Producer of the Year (Non-Classical) in 1984, and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for “Truly” in 1982), as well as being the first person to receive a RIAA diamond album award; Lionel also was nominated for two Golden Globe awards (while winning one)- in 1982, Lionel was nominated for Best Original Song for the film Endless Love, and in 1986, he was nominated for and won the award for Best Original Song for the song “Say You, Say Me”, featured in the film White Nights.

All of these awards mean nothing if the songs aren’t iconic, legendary, moving, inspiring, powerful, the soundtrack to a whole generation, and synonymous with a certain point in time. Celine Dion is iconic because of “My Heart Will Go On”, and so… does Lionel Richie have anything that makes him stand out and makes him an artist worthy of all of these awards? Just like how Celine Dion has “My Heart Will Go On”, so too does Lionel have a song. And that song… is “Hello”. A melody that stands the test of time and places Lionel as an artist that will always be talked about, even 50 years from now; this melody released as a single in 1984. On the surface, the melody is about a very shy man who is ‘in love’ with a girl from afar. He is too tongue tied and anxious to say anything, so he just admires her from afar. And the song is this outpouring of overwhelming love that the singer has for this person. With Lionel writing the song about his experiences in the past (about how beautiful women would always pass him by and he would wonder if they would ever give someone like him a second glance), the song on the whole and on the surface is sweet, inspiring, uplifting and hopeful- it provides us with a reassurance that people who are shy can find themselves in a relationship with someone who is worthy and someone who is kind, gracious and special. However, a deeper listen to the lyrics reveal a message that is quite… disturbing to say the least, and has me really wanting to press pause- considering the era of #metoo we are in. This melody may be a timeless classic and a hit, but this message of someone declaring their love for another person that he barely knows… well, isn’t that a bit icky?

Quick, what’s the single most popular subject for a song? If you answered “love”, you’re correct, probably. At least, that’s what it feels like most of the time. Songwriters just can’t seem to get enough of the stuff. Whether it’s celebrating a newfound spark, meditating on a passing fling, dissecting a love gone bad, or longing for a little more romance in their lives, songwriters have mined love perhaps more than any other topic.

But in some cases, songwriters weren’t as interested in love as we seem to think. Other times, they were a little too interested, if you catch our drift. This ’80s classic is as famous for its themes of longing and lust as it is for its incredibly cheesy music video which sees Richie playing a drama teacher (watch it, you won’t regret it). So why is it creepy? It’s actually about a teacher who harbours a crush on a blind student.

I grew up without MTV, and my family was very religious, so this was the first time I saw the video. With all of the stories of teachers and students having improper interaction today, I do not think this video would be made in the same way. Lionel Richie’s Hello video could be use as: A human resource video on how not to interact with your students, or how to be a creepier and or stalker 101.

These above quotes are from a couple of articles that I read about that delve deep into whether Lionel’s hit song is a stalker-ish song or not. And though right now I see this song as something that is downright creepy; I guess you’ve got to remember that back then it was the 80’s, and probably Lionel meant this song to be a poetic, beautiful, sappy, admirable, and adorable love song. You could actually see it that way, with the protagonist being a shy, awkward and anxiety-ridden teenager who is crushing on his next-door neighbour or classmate, and he can’t find the words to say anything to her so he sings this song. Problem is, though, that the music video reveals a teacher following a blind student and declaring his love for her. I mean, come on! A blind student? There’s a bit of a power dynamic issue and struggle here, don’t you think? Yes, I know, I know, the girl moulds a sculpture of Lionel Richie’s face at the end of the video, proving to all of us viewers that the two people love each other. But you’ve got to admit though, the track, though still timeless, has a very different meaning in 2022 than it did in 1984. And this begs the question- should you view songs in the era that they were written or in the era that we’re living in now? Or do you try to view them via both lenses? It’s something to ponder and think about and discuss. It’s certainly something that won’t be solved in a blog post or even a paragraph about a blog post- and so how about we leave the controversy about “Hello” behind for now; and leave the discussion up to you about what the song means. The melody nonetheless is impacting and powerful and one for the history books. But if you’re not feeling the track, then there’s always other songs from Lionel that are just as moving, if not more so.

“Dancing On The Ceiling”, a happy-go-lucky pop melody about partying and having a good time, features Lionel singing out ‘…what is happening here, something’s going on that’s not quite clear, somebody turn on the lights, we’re gonna have a party, it’s starting tonight, oh, what a feeling, when we’re dancing on the ceiling…’; as well as a rather unique music video that features Lionel and many dancers literally ‘dancing on the ceiling’. Though the track may seem like an innocent song about hanging out with your mates and ‘shooting the breeze’ (I reckon that was the intention of the track back in the 80’s!); some could say that this melody is about inviting all of your friends for a drug party or a sex orgy or both. Viewing this melody through the lens of 2022 makes this song a hippie-ish tune that speaks about free love and peace and stoners; and “Dancing On The Ceiling”, to me, is a song that, like “Hello”, can be misconstrued when viewed through today’s lens. So maybe let’s just think about this bop in a much more wholesome and righteous way? The music video seems harmless, don’t you think? “Three Times A Lady”, a genuine powerful piano led romantic ballad, is one of the few tracks from The Commodores that I actually thought was a solo song from Lionel Richie– that’s how much it has transcended time. It’s probably one of the few Commodore sons that is actually popular and influential, transcending the band and rivalling many solo Lionel Richie tracks; as the melody speaks about how the persona is so in love with their wife, even at the end of their lives and even at the point when she is nearly dying. The pure love song speaks about commitment and dedication and loyalty to someone throughout the years; and will probably be one of the few Commodore songs to be still talked about in the coming years- and if there’s one song that speaks about relationships and love in a profound and moving way- then it would be this one.

“Say You, Say Me”, probably the most popular song outside of “Hello”, was written as the title theme song for the 1985 movie White Nights. With the melody being a soft R&B ballad, the track speaks about the pain of loneliness and the power of friendship. The film (which I haven’t seen, but I may one day), focuses on a Russian ballet dancer’s (Mikhail Baryshnikov) ill-fated defection from the Soviet Union and his unlikely friendship with a tap dancer who defected from America (Gregory Hines). The movie may be considered controversial or political; but the song I reckon is applicable, relevant, and relatable to everyone across all time periods. “Say You, Say Me” speaks about unity and friendship and lending a helping hand to whoever needs it, and being there for someone in a tight spot. Where have all the songs about friendship gone in 2022? “Stuck On You”, another big hit from Lionel, delves deep into the fact we as people can be blind to some of the most glaring facts out there that are right in front of us. In the case of this song, the persona realises that the female friend that he has is actually the one he wants to pursue romantically. The song has a happy ending, with both people ending up together; but this song reminds us and encourages us to take risks sometimes in our lives in whatever aspect it is- because we never truly know whether we are too late or not when we act on something. Speaking about “Truly”, Lionel’s heartfelt and powerful melody is another standout from him in his discography- it was his first single as a solo artist after he left The Commodores. With “Truly” hitting #1 on the Hot 100 and Adult Contemporary charts, and #2 on the R&B charts, the simple piano ballad about Lionel being truly in love with his spouse; remains a classic song to this day.

“All Night Long (All Night)”, a poppy, joyous, Caribbean style melody, is a fun track to dance and move to. With the melody being about how the very act of dancing for a long continuous time can stir your soul and move your spirit, Lionel powerfully relays that he loves to dance his troubles away, and that this song was the turning point for him in respect to his career taking off: What I try to write about are real events. There will always be an easy like Sunday morning. There will always be an endless love. There will always be an all night long. I just couldn’t find the ending – I couldn’t find all night long to save my life. I had everything, the verses, the middle part, all the stuff. I just did not have all night long. It took me forever to find it. And finally one night, the heavens opened up and came through. I’m one of those guys that – I don’t look for something new. I look for what people do everyday. And I noticed that, anytime I would come on vacation, everybody who can rap is on vacation doing a calypso dance. Everybody who’s singing Opera, they conform to some form of calypso or some form of reggae. So when I went back to do ‘All Night Long’ it was very simple. All I had to do was find that beat that everybody dances to when they go on vacation. I called the UN and said ‘I need something African for the breakdown in this song I’m writing.’ They informed me that there are thousands of different African dialects. I couldn’t believe it. One region doesn’t have any idea what the other is taking about. So, ‘Tambo liteh sette mo-jah!’? I made it up on the spot. Now I think that ‘Jambo’ might have a meaning in Swahili (it does- “hello”), but you gotta be careful because it might mean ‘welcome’ in one dialect and you might get your head cut off for saying it in another. [But] even my own record company said to me, ‘Are you out of your mind?’ And I said, ‘Guys, I’ve traveled the world. This is the rhythm that the whole world dances to on vacation.’ When MTV started, it wanted nothing to do with black artists. But then I gave them ‘All Night Long’ after Michael (Jackson) had broken down the door. And from then on I was on MTV. In 2011, Lionel and Guy Sebastian re-recorded “All Night Long (All Night)” as a standalone single, and once again Lionel proved just how prolific and iconic this song actually is. “Endless Love”, Lionel’s debut single as a solo artist (“Truly” was attached to an album and this track wasn’t!), is a collaboration and a duet with Diana Ross, and is a heart-warming, passionate, loving, sweet and ethereal ballad that vividly describes the endless love that two people have for each other. A timeless classic that epitomises the raw and emotional bond between two people and speaks about how two people can have a love that stretches across time and space; Lionel and Diana have recorded a brilliant melody that reminds us of the timelessness and the beauty of finding the right person to share your life with. Lionel also co-wrote the mega-hit and massive collaboration “We Are The World” with Michael Jackson. This is really MJ’s baby, and thus I will only post the video below… but take a watch- and hang on tight until we write about Michael Jackson for us to really dive deep into what “We Are The World”, a charity single, is all about and means for the landscape of music today.

As far as popular and impacting Lionel Richie songs go… I think I’ve written about all of the songs that he is famous for. I’ve certainly only covered around about 10-ish (or maybe even less) that the world knows- and for those songs, he is iconic and identity building. If someone is a Lionel Richie fan, chances are that they’d probably be impacted or changed by any one of these aforementioned songs, and probably no other song from outside of what I have written about. That’s just how it was- that his first three albums charted well on the US charts, so did the last album Tuskegee in 2012. Everything else in-between didn’t do that well. And so, this blog won’t speak about those songs and those albums in detail. Just know that Lionel has more albums and more songs in his repertoire than what people know and love. If the general public know 10 or so, then there’s probably another 30-odd worth writing about. And so… should I? Write about these lesser-known songs, I mean? If this blog were an influential artists of all time blog, then I probably would’ve to try to convince you all that Lionel is influential. But we already know he is iconic, and regardless of if I listen to these lesser-known songs and love them- what good is me writing about what people don’t really know; especially in a series like this where I’d prefer to be more direct and succinct? “You Are”, “Running With The Night”, “Penny Lover”, “Don’t Wanna Lose You”, “My Love”, “Just For You”, “Do It To Me”, “Angel” and “My Destiny” are songs that I may have expanded upon if he was part of the list of 100. But Lionel already is iconic (predominately because of “Hello”) … and so, perhaps I’ll let his songs and videos do all of the talking and explaining rather than myself. Lionel’s brand of R&B and pop succeeded in the 80’s and has now fallen flat; but that doesn’t mean that it’s any less moving or impacting.

It’s quite interesting that in my growing up I had several influences. We had gospel music on campus. R&B music was, of course, the community, and radio was country music. So, I can kind of see where all the influences came from. It was very interesting in my world, because I grew up as a fan and I did not know that there was a thing called R&B, pop, country, classical — I just knew that I loved music,” Richie says. “So to show you how conflicted I was in my growing up, I’m now walking across campus in the middle of the civil rights movement with a Country Joe and the Fish, Cream, Marvin Gaye and Jimi Hendrix album under my arm. So, when I finally got around to thinking about country, I never thought of it as a category. I just thought of it as great, great music.

You know what happens a lot of the time, record companies — mainly for just marketing — we have to try to divide things up, so we can clearly market things. But I remember walking into a radio station and the guy said, ‘I’m sorry, Lionel, but this record is just too black.’ And I said, ‘OK, well, it’s No. 1 on the R&B [charts].’ I came back with the next record, Easy Like Sunday Morning, and the guy said, ‘OK, Lionel, now this record is perfect for pop, but it’s not black enough.’ So, it’s just one of those things where I’ve kind of gone against the grain throughout my entire career. And if I had to have another title for this record besides Tuskegee, it would be called All the Songs That They Told Me Would Ruin My Career. Every time they told me, ‘This is not where you’re supposed to be,’ I just went there, just defying the laws.

I remember when I was writing this song [Hello], I didn’t like it. It was my co-producer, James Carmichael, that continued it. Let me tell you how it got started: He walked into the room, we were going to do a writing session and I played, ‘Hello, is it me you’re looking for?’ And he said, ‘Finish that song.’ And I said, ‘Wait a minute, I’m just joking with you.’ I kept thinking, ‘That is the corniest phrase. It’ll never go.’ And finally, I realize now, such a common phrase, but at the same time, the whole world will say it.

Let me just say that this business looks like this little nice teddy bear that you get into and it just surrounds you and you get to be famous and you ride across town and people chase your car. Let me tell you what this really is — this is a full-grown gorilla. It really is the toughest business in the world to survive, because it gives you everything you could imagine, but it also exposes every part of your insecurities. In other words, if you’re a little insecure, it’ll make you hugely insecure. If you’re into drugs, you’re going to be into all the drugs. If you’re into girls, all the girls. If you’re into fame, it’s going to ego you out of your mind. And in most cases, it eats you up. Between the period of ’89 through ’92, I just bailed out. I just stopped, because it was going too fast, and I was actually losing my footing to the point where I was not comfortable flying at that speed or that altitude. So, I pulled out, just stopped everything I was doing, and got out.

Is it possible that Lionel succeeded in his first three albums and then ‘didn’t’ anymore because he got burnt out and stepped back from the industry for a bit? And by the time he got back in everyone else, inclusive of critics and listeners, moved on? Tuskegee released in 2012, and reminds us all that Lionel’s songs are still timeless. A country album recorded with superstars of the genre and other big heavyweights, the album boasts the guests vocals of Kenny Rogers, Willie Nelson, Darius Rucker, Rascal Flatts, Shania Twain, Blake Shelton, Jennifer Nettles, Little Big Town and Jason Aldean to name a few; it is in this album that we realise that no matter what the current state of music is today and no mater why Lionel’s later albums didn’t resonate with the wider world; we still have these powerful melodies from the early part of his career, and that is what has made him successful and popular for all this time. I’ve often said that influential artists are influential because of what they have done outside of the spotlight. That is true. But iconic and identity building artists? They’re famous because of their presence, that one song that worms its way into listeners’ hearts, and the feeling people get when they hear the songs. Lionel’s music, like Celine’s, is magical, and on another level. Dare I say, it’s God-breathed! They may not fit, or they may sound outdated right now. But there’s something about these songs and there’s something that makes me happy that I have resonated with at least some of Lionel’s discography.

In a time when some of Lionel’s contemporaries (Prince, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Kenny Rogers) have passed away, Lionel’s longevity is astounding and remarkable. Lionel Richie may not release another album. But that’s ok. He’s recently unveiled deluxe editions of his previous albums (his successful albums and his unsuccessful albums), and you can view them on Apple Music. And as such, he’s still having a ball. He’s still a judge on American Idol, and Lionel this year still has gained all of these awards. You never know- he might surprise us and release a Christmas album or an acoustic album. But if Lionel doesn’t, that’s more than ok, because he has earned his time in the spotlight and his time away from the spotlight. Lionel is iconic. You might not believe me, but he is. And as I end this blog with less words than many of the others I’ve written in the past; I’ll leave you with two excerpts of interviews- one from GQ and the other from Rolling Stone. Lionel’s presence in this industry is inspiring; and his thoughts about the ever-evolving music industry is even more humbling and moving. “Hello” might be creepy now… but can we ever listen to it in a more innocent way? Something to think about as we marvel one of the most inspiring R&B artists ever!

You know, I don’t deal with that [thinking about death]. I don’t think of that. No. The answer to your question: no. It’s a moment in time when you start kind of dealing with your own mortality, but I think my kids do that more to me than the business. As I tell the joke every day, you know, all you need is two girls and one boy. Now, for every day you go work out, the more I work out, the better my son, Miles, looks. And with every day you think you thought you were the hippest guy in the world, my daughters Nicole and Sophie will bring you to salvation. They remind you that time is passing. But the business is a stimulant. I’m addicted to exhaustion. I love the adrenaline hit.

There was a time when you could build catalogs, in the sense of: Just give me three albums and you had a catalog. You didn’t need a lot. You just needed to have an album full of stuff. I’ve seen the business long enough to go from singles to albums, now back to singles. So I caught it in the wave of the album, when if you got 12 songs on the first and 14 songs on the second one, you got a catalog. You do two more albums, you’re rolling down the road. So you start out wanting to be this songwriter, and then as time goes on, if you’re lucky enough to get that one hit record that you could play for a while, you’re good. But people used to want to hear the whole thing: “What’s the story?” That was the appeal of the album. And I look at guys now, it’s so much noise. It’s a beautiful opportunity to break through. I must admit that. If you are not an established artist, the Internet is fabulous. But now you don’t get paid. And if you do get paid, it’s not the way we were paid. You know? Then again, you talk to Little Richard and his group, they didn’t get paid either.

I love giving the crowd their pandemonium moment. The crowd wants to come to the show to scream. They don’t want to come to the show to go to the bathroom. When do they go to the bathroom? During something they don’t know. The frustration for artists is we want it to be just as impactful as the last time it happened. Well, it’s not happening like that. Because with the Internet, it’s a lot of noise. When I say a lot of noise, I don’t mean noise in terms of music. I mean just a lot of noise in terms of—there’s so many different avenues.

I’ll tune it out for a minute, and then you find yourself talking, and all of a sudden you think, “Oh, that’s a great song.” Then you go, “Oh, that’s me.” My music director did a thing to me the other day, it was so funny. When we do sound checks, and I’ll turn around and he’s just playing chords. I’m going, “Oh, my God—those are great chords, man. Be sure to put that down. That’s a definite song. I could write on top of that.” He said, “Boss, that is your song.” But he was playing one of the older songs that I don’t play every day. I find myself drifting in and out of it, but not listening for it.

No. You don’t get sick of it [listening to my own songs]. I mean, it’s so sweet, because people, they say it and then they apologize. They go, “Hello, Mr. Richie. I mean, I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to say ‘hello.’ I just made a fool of myself.” I go, “No, no, ‘hello’ is the right word.” And then they stop apologizing. Or you could be in church, and the minister’s giving the sermon and he says, “And you know, you find yourself working very hard all night long.” And everybody looks at you. “All Night Long” was mine, but it was not in that context.

I was never the guy to be the player. I’m not that guy. I’ve tried to hang out with a couple of players, and I go, “I gotta go, guys.” But I think that’s probably why I’m still alive today. You know, it’s out of my league. I’ve been with what I call—you want playboys? I got a couple of ’em for you. Unfortunately, over half of ’em are dead now. Or they got sued to death. Girls love playboys and girls love bad boys. But in the long run, does it serve them? It doesn’t work. At a certain point, you gotta kind of pull out of it, and there’s a reality syndrome that happens to you. And I think my truth serum was probably my kids. Once you own the word “dad,” it kinda messes up the sexy a little bit for a while. You know, because you can’t quite play it the way you thought you were going to play. And then you just have to kind of realize that that’s the next step of what that existence is gonna be.

GQ, 2018

When Dolly came up and when I came up, every category was its own staple. In other words, country was a group and R&B was a group and classical and jazz. There was pop and rock & roll. Everything was a group. But since that time, it’s all turned into music. It’s all turned into the respect of each other. More or less, the categories came down and we’re more or less looking down at the brilliance of the music and celebrating the careers. That’s the key. I tell people every day, “This is not an easy business to survive.” If you happen to be still living, that’s the one to acknowledge. That’s a big celebration. You’re being acknowledged by people in the music business. That is everything.

How about [the theory that] rock & roll got its roots from blues and R&B? If you go back and look at the chords that everyone is playing in the Sixties through the early Seventies, that’s all Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry and Lightnin’ Slim. Those are blues players. To all of a sudden say this is a special category onto itself is sort of leaving the rest of the business out.

I like where we are now. I like what it’s doing. It’s all-encompassing since we’re all in the music business. That’s what makes it so beautiful. We can stand next to each other and look at each other and go, “Wow, we did it. We made it.”

I’m with American Idol. I try to tell the contestants, “It’s not about how well you sing. It’s whether you have a style that people recognize without looking at you. Also, they fall in love with your journey, your struggles. They identify with all of that.”

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, we didn’t all walk onto that stage and say, “Thank you very much.” We struggled. Each person has a story that is more unbelievable than the other one. It’s going to be a celebration of life, just a celebration of our lives and careers. It’s just going to be a celebration of being on that stage with such great talent.

Listen. I told that to somebody the other day as a joke. They said, “Aren’t you happy to be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?” I said, “Guys, I’m happy to be alive.” The thing about it is that the journey is so difficult. Rock & roll can be lethal, I say as a joke. And to be in good health enough to walk onto that stage, to be able to perform still on that stage and feel like you’re still vibing, that’s all part of the journey.

I’m most happy to be alive and well and enjoying the activities and festivities. It’s not an easy business, by no means. I can’t say that enough. We take for granted when you’re starting out in the back of the van, and I am the roadie. I am the saxophone player. I am the manager. When you go from there to here, there’s a lot of moving parts along the way that are all designed to take you out, not bring you in.

When I’m going into restaurants now or going down the street, I go, “Is that a nine-, eight-, 10-year-old kid going, ‘Hi, Lionel!’” Not “Mr. Richie.” It’s, “Hey Mom, Dad, there’s Lionel.” And the parents, of course, start apologizing. “Mr. Richie, I’m so sorry.” They go, “No, no Mom. That’s Lionel! That’s Uncle Lionel!”

And so, the answer is yes. I have moved into another realm of consciousness. It’s because, if you can get a 10-year-old to wave at you from a car passing you in the street, we’re doing amazing, amazing business here.

Rolling Stone, 2022

Does Lionel Richie make the list for you all when you write your own ‘Iconic and Identity-Building Artists of All Time’ list? Is there any song (other than “Hello”, “Dancing On The Ceiling”, “Say You, Say Me”, “Endless Love”, “All Night Long (All Night)”, “Truly”, “Stuck On You”, “My Love” and “You Are”) that has impacted you on your journey through life thus far, or even your walk with God? Let us know in the comments. Till next time!

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