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Lionel Richie
There can be no doubt that singer, songwriter and producer Lionel Richie is a musical legend who needs no introduction. If you're less than 30, you might know Lionel Richie best as the father of The Simple Life reality television star and tabloid favourite Nicole Richie. But if you're a tad older, you might remember that Lionel Richie is winner of five Grammy Awards, six American Music Awards, two American Black Achievement Awards from Ebony magazine, one People's Choice Award, and an Academy Award for Best Original Song in the motion picture White Knights for Say You, Say Me.

As the lead singer of the popular 1970s soul/R&B/funk/pop group The Commodores, he topped the charts with songs such as Lady and Zoom. Richie left The Commodores in 1981 and went on to become a huge success as a solo artist, with ballads and love songs that became the soundtrack to a lot of romantic moments in the 1980s. A short list of his hits includes Easy, Endless Love, All Night Long, Hello, and Truly among many others.

The Commodores first began to gather a following when they won the opportunity to open for the Jackson Five's concerts in the early 1970s. Around the same time, they signed a contract with Motown Records and after a two-year period of searching for the right producer and arranger began to put out albums. But by the mid-1970s, most of The Commodores ~ including Richie ~ started to feel that funky dance tunes were too ephemeral. They wanted to move towards writing and recording ballads and Richie took the time out to concentrate on his own songwriting. After a few confirmed hits the band disbanded and Richie moved to a solo career.

From his first album right up to his very recent release Coming Home, Lionel Richie has had hit after super hit. Coming Home continues a tradition of pure pop craftsmanship that shows he's still at the top of his game. The album features nine songs written/co-written by Richie and is an all-star collaboration with today's most prolific contemporary hit-makers, including Jermaine Dupri, Raphael Saadiq, Dallas Austin, and Sean Garrett. The video for his first single I Call It Love stars his daughter Nicole, and is a song that cannot be missed.

At 57, Richie still looks and sounds like a man half his age. Despite decades of hits, with every passing year he proves that his best is yet to come. His daughter Nicole has also entered the world of showbiz, and here, together, they talk about his past, their present, and the future.

After all of your past success, what continues to drive you creatively?
Lionel Richie:
Well, first of all it’s two things; I have people (fans) in every part of the world. They ask me just two wonderful questions that I call the ticket to ride. They ask me, ‘when’s your next concert’, and if they are from Canada, ‘when are you coming to Canada’? Or it’s, ‘Lionel, when is your new record coming out’? That’s your ticket to ride. And I love doing this. I may be crazy to say this but I love this response.

You were once quoted as saying ‘our old sound is the new sound’. Where in the current music do you hear your influence the most?
You know, what they’ve discovered now is that R&B is pop music. They’ve put the beats in it and they’re rapping to these beats for the last 10 years. They’ve discovered this brand new word, which is a brand new old word that I call melody. Now that you’ve got this, you want to sing on top of the beats; that’s the new sound. So if you ask this guy what’s going to be on your new record? And he would say, ‘I have a bass player, a drummer, a keyboardist and a few backup singers’. That’s what he calls new music. (Laughs). What a concept.

Can you explain the premise of your new video, I Call It Love?
It’s really a love story about a Catherine Hepburn persona, looking very beautiful; an elegant, wealthy woman who falls in love with a very modest kind of guy. It’s just that love has a way of cutting through and so I named it I Call It Love. So money, fame and fortune don’t matter. Love has a beautiful way of comprehending. The story goes of how he finds love in the end and they live together.

How did you come about to have your daughter Nicole in the video?
Uncle LA Reid just happened to be on the Board of Island Def Jam records, and we were just sitting and talking, deciding from a list of Hollywood people who would make a good video person. We brought in MTV; we were looking for someone who would bridge the gap between the young and the old, when all of a sudden Reid said the person was in my own house. We just felt like picking up the phone to call Nicole and so it just happened. I thought she would do it and it came out well.

Is it difficult for you as Nicole’s father to witness her under public scrutiny?
It’s all part of the writer’s struggle. If you can take the fame, you got to take the hit too. Her grandfather ~ my father ~ always told us that great fighters are not known by how many punches they throw, but rather by how many punches they can take. That is the business that we are in. So she’s going to have a tough time, and she’s a tough cookie.

You can read the rest of our feature on Lionel Richie in the September 2006 issue of The Record Music Magazine available at your local newsagent.


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