There are certain artists that you can’t dismiss when talking about the 1980’s. Michael Jackson, Prince, The Police, Madonna, Billy Joel and Phil Collins, to name a few. Another one that you can’t leave out is Lionel Richie, today’s featured artist.
Richie was a member of the Commodores, who had several funk and soul hits in the 1970s. Originally, the band was signed to Motown Records as a backup group for the Jackson 5. Eventually, they were allowed to perform their own songs, and in 1974 the group first hit with an instrumental called “Machine Gun.” From there, their stature grew and they began to make a bigger mark on the music industry, eventually landing pop top 10 hits like “Brick House,” and a string of ballads written by Richie such as “Three Times A Lady,” “Still” and “Sail On.”
After writing songs for Kenny Rogers (“Lady”) and Diana Ross (“Endless Love”), Richie’s fame as a songwriter began to outshine the group. He would leave the Commodores for a solo career in 1982, where he released is self-titled debut album. That album contained three top ten hits: “Truly” (which would go all the way to #1), “My Love,” and today’s song, “You Are”.
Through 1987, Richie was a force on the pop charts as well as R&B. His next album, Can’t Slow Down, proved to be his biggest hit, containing five top ten hits and also winning the Grammy for Album Of The Year in 1984. In 1985, Richie co-wrote the song “We Are The World” with Michael Jackson. After his album Dancing On The Ceiling was released in 1986, Richie took time off to spend with his father, who had become ill. Once he returned, his sales couldn’t match those he was able to achieve earlier in the decade.
Despite that, Richie still commands respect as one of music’s great songwriters and performers. Even at 67 years old, Richie is still revered, and still performs today. While his recording schedule has slowed to almost a standstill (his last album Tuskegee, was released in 2012), his music is still played all over the world. It is said that his song “All Night Long (All Night)” was playing in Baghdad when the U.S. tanks rolled into the city.
“You Are” was my favorite song from his debut album. Co-written with his then-wife Brenda, the song made it to #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #2 on the R&B charts. I suppose I could have held this one for tomorrow and #RomanticTuesday, but I wanted to say a few words on just how popular Richie was during the 80s.
Thanks as always for reading and listening.