Lionel Richie, Jr., born June 20, 1949, in Tuskegee, Alabama, U.S., is an American singer, songwriter, and producer best known for his smooth and passionate love ballads from the 1970s and 1980s. He is a multi-talented musician who can perform — and blend — a wide range of musical styles, including funk, soul, rhythm & blues, and country. He started as a member of a band before launching his solo career which catapulted him to worldwide fame. Join us as we celebrate this music legend whose songs continue to be enjoyed to date.
Lionel Richie, the son of Lionel Brockman Richie, Sr., a U.S. Army system analyst, and Alberta R. Foster, a teacher, was born on June 20, 1949, in Tuskegee, Alabama. He started his musical journey by joining the Mystics, a campus band, as a saxophonist, songwriter, and singer in his first year at Tuskegee University. The Mystics later became the Commodores, a funk and rhythm-and-blues band, with Richie as the lead vocalist. In 1968, they signed a one-record deal with Atlantic Records and then moved on to Motown Records. Richie composed and sang numerous romantic, easy-listening ballads throughout his life. Richie’s first commercial hit as a songwriter came in 1974 when he co-wrote ‘Happy People’ with Jeffrey Bowen and Donald Baldwin. It was recorded by The Temptations, who achieved their second-to-last No. 1 R&B hit with the song, which was originally planned as a Commodores single. Richie also sang the title song for the film “Endless Love,” a duet with Diana Ross, in 1981. The song was released as a single and went on to become one of Motown’s biggest hits in Canada, Brazil, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and the U.S.
Richie’s solo career began in 1982 with the release of his album “Lionel Richie.” The following years were a blur, with multiple number-one hits and a Grammy Award for Album of the Year. Richie and pop icon Michael Jackson penned ‘We Are the World’ in 1985 to raise money for African famine relief; the song raised $50 million in donations and won a Grammy for song of the year. Richie’s late-90s albums, including “Louder Than Words” and “Time,” failed to equal his earlier commercial success. He reissued compilation C.D. of his career both with Commodores and as a solo act which propelled him back to the top of the U.K. albums list. Richie was revealed as a judge for the reboot of American Idol by A.B.C. in September 2017. He has served as a judge on the relaunch for five seasons, including its most recent edition, which premiered on February 27, 2022. In 2019, Richie announced a 33-city summer tour across North America. His ‘Hello Tour’ began on May 10 at the KAABOO Festival in Arlington and continued through August.
Richie married his college sweetheart, Brenda Harvey, in 1975. The couple, in 1983, adopted Nicole Camille Escovedo (now Nicole Richie). The singer and Harvey divorced in 1993, and he married Diane Alexander in 1995. They have a son, Miles Brockman (28), and a daughter, Sofia Richie (24). The marriage ended in 2004.
Richie joins the funk band, as a co-lead singer and saxophonist.
Richie's first mainstream hit as a songwriter comes in 1974 with the song ‘Happy People,’ which he co-wrote with Jeffrey Bowen and Donald Baldwin.
Richie receives the University of California’s 21st annual Spring Sing's George and Ira Gershwin Lifetime Achievement Award.
Richie's tenth studio album, "Tuskegee," is released on March 26, 2012, and contains 13 of his hit songs performed as duets with country musicians.
Richie is honored at Berklee College of Music's commencement concert, where graduating students sing a medley of his catalog, as he receives an honorary doctorate of music.
Why We Love Lionel Richie
His concerts are always fun and enjoyable
Richie is known for his dazzling, high-octane performances. You'll laugh, cry, and sing your soul out during his shows.
He has given us numerous love hit songs
One thing about Richie is that his songs will leave your heart bursting with love. He never fails to express exactly how he feels.
He is a legend
Lionel Richie has had an almost fifty-year career that included an Oscar, a Golden Globe, and four Grammy Awards. Lionel Richie has received endless love from fans all around the world — he is truly fabulous.
5 Surprising Facts
He composed ‘Lady’ in the toilet
In the 1970s, Lionel began writing for other singers and according to legend, he composed the second stanza of Kenny Rogers' big hit ‘Lady’ while using the studio’s lavatory.
Football icon Lionel Messi’s namesake
Richie is a favorite of Jorge and Celia Messi, the parents of football legend Lionel Messi, and it is widely speculated that the footballer was named after him.
Nelson Mandela was once styled by him
Lionel was responsible for putting together beautiful clothing for Mandela's numerous media appearances after his release, and Mandela also thanked Richie for helping him get through his time in prison by writing music and lyrics.
Richie’s songs used as teaching aid
His songs are included in the English curriculum in China, according to his fans.
He has his own designer homeware collection
He has his own super-soft Lionel bath towel, a set of Lionel bedsheets, and his famous Hello fragrance
Lionel Richie FAQs
What is Lionel Richie’s most successful single
Richie’s most successful solo hit is ‘All Night Long.’ It’s a wonderful blend of ’80s soft rock and R&B soul.
How many number one hits does Lionel Richie have
He has had five singles reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S.
Is Lionel Richie in a relationship?
Yes, he’s been dating Lisa Parigi since 2014.
Lionel Richie’s birthday dates