Lionel Richie

Lionel Richie

Synopsis of Pop Music

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Many a songwriter will say that successful uptempo songs come and go, but a ballad is timeless. Few hitmakers have taken this lesson to heart like Lionel Richie. During the mid-1980’s, this gifted composer and performer found major success on both the pop and r&b charts with a string of carefully-crafted albums that boasted plenty of tuneful ballads. Although he could turn out nifty dance hits like “All Night Long” or “Dancing On The Ceiling” with ease, he scored his most beloved success with a series of elegant ballads like “Truly” and “Say You, Say Me.” In the process, he became one of the most successful and highly-regarded songwriters in recent memory.

Unlike many solo stars, Lionel Richie had the blessing of beginning his career at the top. Throughout the 1970’s he was a member of the highly successful soul band the Commodores. In the late 70’s, this group became serious hitmakers with a combination of smoking dance tracks like “Brick House” and tender ballads like the Richie-penned "Three Times A Lady." The band continued to hit big through the end of 1970’s, especially with further Richie ballads like “Still” and “Sail On.”

As the 1980’s began, Lionel Richie’s success as a songwriter with The Commodores led to outside work with other artists. He penned the hit “Lady” for Kenny Rogers in 1980 and also produced its parent album, Share Your Love. Richie also scored a major hit in 1981 when he sang a duet with Diana Ross on the film theme “Endless Love,” which he also wrote. It shot to #1 and became one of Motown’s biggest hits of all time, inspiring Richie to try his hand at a solo career. He split from the Commodores later that year and released a self-titled debut album in 1982. It boasted a signature tune in “Truly,” a ballad in the Commodores mold that gave Richie his second #1 hit as a solo artist.

A newly confident Lionel Richie returned to the pop charts in 1983 with the prophetically-titled album Can’t Slow Down. He scored a hit right out of the box with “All Night Long,” a percolating combination of dance grooves and pop hooks that gave Richie yet another #1 hit. This good-time tune became an instant party anthem and also benefited from a charming dance-filled video produced by former Monkee Michael Nesmith. Meanwhile, Can’t Slow Down produced hit after hit with tracks like the dramatic “Running With The Night” and the wistful, country-styled “Stuck On You.” One of the best hits from the album was “Hello,” a Top-10 ballad in the patented Richie style.

In 1985, Lionel Richie applied his songwriting skills to a global cause by penning “We Are The World” with fellow star Michael Jackson. This song was performed by all-star group of musicians under the name USA For Africa. The end result was a #1 hit that won a Grammy Award and became one of the most successful singles of all time. Lionel Richie also returned to the world of movie music by writing and performing “Say You, Say Me” for the film White Nights. This dynamic ballad shot to #1, making Richie the only songwriter to pen nine #1 hits in nine consecutive years. It also won him an Oscar for Best Song.

Lionel Richie released his next album, Dancing On The Ceiling, in 1986. The title track went to #1 as a single and also spawned an amusing video that depicted Richie and some friends literally ‘dancing on the ceiling’ thanks to the magic of special visual effects. It also contained a successful ballad in “Ballerina Girl” and the surprisingly countrified “Deep River Woman,” a collaboration with Alabama. Richie followed the success of the album with an equally well-received tour that saw him performing to sellout crowds all over the world.

After fourteen years of nonstop performing and recording, Lionel Richie took a lengthy and well-deserved break to enjoy his personal life. He returned to his music career in 1992 to pen three new songs for his best-of collection, Back To Front. Like his past releases, it was a hit. Since then, he has continued to score on the charts with albums like Louder Than Words and Time. He is currently at work on a new album that will feature such luminaries as the Backstreet Boys. His many hits and his ability to write unforgettable ballads ensure that Lionel Richie will be an important force in pop music for a long time.

"We're gonna have a party,
All night long..."

Artist Release History

1982 - Lionel Richie
1983 - Can’t Slow Down
1986 - Dancing In The Ceiling
1992 - Back To Front
1996 - Louder Than Words
1997 - Truly: The Love Songs
1998 - Time

Pop Sub Categories


Essential Music Albums

Can’t Slow Down (Motown)

Band Members

Lionel Richie vocals

Other Pop Music Links