Lionel Richie Lionel Richie grew up on and near the campus of Tuskegee Institute, Alabama. In fact, his grandmother's house was across the street from the home of the president of the Institute. His family did move to Illinois, where he graduated from high school in Joliet, Illinois. A star tennis player in Joliet, he accepted a tennis scholarship back at Tuskegee Institute.
Back as a student in Tuskeegee, he formed a succession of R&B groups in the mid-60's. In 1968, he became the lead singer and saxophonist with the Commodores. They signed a recording contract with Atlantic Records in 1968 for a one-record contract, before moving to on Motown Records, being schooled as support act to the Jackson Five. The Commodores became established as one of America's most popular soul group of the 70's, and Richie was responsible for writing and singing many of their biggest hits, specializing in romantic, easy-listening ballads such as "Easy", "Three Times A Lady", and "Still".
His pleasing vocal tones established him as the most prominent member of the group, and by the late 70's he had begun to accept songwriting commissions from other artists. He composed "Lady" for his friend Kenny Rogers (which hit number 1 in 1980), and he produced his Share Your Love album the following year. Also in 1981, he sang a duet with Diana Ross in the theme song for the film Endless Love. Issued as a single, the song topped the UK and US pop music charts, and it became one of Motown's biggest hits. Its success encouraged Richie to branch out into a full-fledged solo career in 1982. His debut album, Lionel Richie, produced another chart-topping single, "Truly", which continued the style of his ballads with the Commodores.
In 1983, he released Can't Slow Down, which shot him into the first rank of international superstars. The album also won two Grammy awards, including Album Of The Year. It spawned the number 1 hit "All Night Long", a rock 'n' roll dance number that was promoted by a startling video, produced by former Monkee, Michael Nesmith.
Several more Top 10 hits followed, the most successful of which was "Hello", a sentimental love song that showed how far Richie had moved from his R&B roots. Now described by one critic as 'the black Barry Manilow', Richie wrote and performed a suitably soothing theme song, "Say You, Say Me", for the film White Nights, winning an Oscar for his efforts. He also collaborated with Michael Jackson on the charity single "We Are the World" by USA For Africa.
In about 1984, Lionel and his wife Brenda Richie informally adopted three-year-old Nicole Richie, who was the daughter of people associated with Lionel's band. They raised her as their daughter, and in about 1990, they went through the legal formalities of adopting her. Brenda and Lionel divorced after a 16-year marriage, and then Lionel immediately married Diane Alexander. Lionel and Diane have borne two children, but they are no longer married.
In 1986, he released Dancing On The Ceiling, another widely popular album that produced a run of US and UK hits. The title track, which revived the lively dance sound of "All Night Long", was accompanied by another striking video, a feature that played an increasingly important role in Richie's solo career. 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.
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. Instead, he stayed with his chosen path of well-crafted soul music, which in the intervening years has become known as 'Urban R&B'.
In November 2005 he performed with Kenny Rogers on a CMT "Crossroads" special. The show (a concert/documentary) gave an informative insight into their friendship both in and out of the music world.