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He is an international superstar, an award-winning, record-breaking musical genius who has written some of the best known and loved songs in popular history. The stuff of legend, Lionel Richie is an artist whose career spans more than three decades with over 100 million albums sold.
Of his numerous accomplishments, Lionel Richie has won an Academy Award, five Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe, 18 American Music Awards, five People's Choice Awards, an NAACP Image Award, honors from ASCAP, a World Music Lifetime Achievement Award, and a well-deserved star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. His 15 consecutive top 10 R&B hits (five of which went to No. 1) and 13 consecutive top 10 pop hits (five of which also went to No. 1), stands as one of the most enviable achievements in chart history.
While attending the Tuskegee Institute in 1967, the Alabama-born entertainer was one of the founders of The Commodores. Signed to Motown Records by 1971, "Machine Gun" and "Brick House" established the group as one of the most popular funk bands before Richie even penned the classics "Easy," "Three Times a Lady," and "Sail On."
Lionel began working separately from the Commodores in 1980, after the Kenny Rogers hit version of "Lady" led him to produce the singer's 1981 album. "Endless Love," his 1981 chart-topping duet with Diana Ross (covered in 1994 by Luther Vandross and Mariah Carey), became Motown's most successful single, and further fueled his solo ambitions. But it was the quadruple-platinum release of his self-titled solo debut in 1982 that set Lionel on the path to global superstardom. After that, "Can't Slow Down" sold 10 million copies in 1983 and won the Grammy for Album of the Year, next followed by the massively successful "Dancing on the Ceiling" in 1986.
Later albums "Back to Front," "Louder than Words," "Time," and the multi-million selling, aptly titled retrospective "Definitive Collection," reflect the timeless and classic voice, music and lyrics that define Lionel Richie. "Renaissance" in 2001 was his first release for the Island Records family, soon followed with "Just for You," "Encore" and "Live in Paris." In 2009, "Just Go" was Richie's long-awaited follow-up to the RIAA gold "Coming Home," which made chart history as the first top 10 album debut of his solo career and garnered Grammy nominations for both Best R&B Album and also Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for the No. 1 Urban AC song "I Call It Love."
Lionel Richie holds the distinction of being the only songwriter in the modern pop era to write No. 1 hit songs over the course of nine consecutive years: 1978 ("Three Times a Lady" with the Commodores), 1979 ("Still" with the Commodores), 1980 ("Lady" for Kenny Rogers), 1981 ("Endless Love" duet with Diana Ross), 1982 ("Truly"), 1983 ("All Night Long"), 1984 ("Hello"), 1985 ("We Are the World" with Michael Jackson for USA for Africa), and 1986 ("Say You, Say Me").
In 1985, needing little persuasion from producer Quincy Jones, Lionel began to write the music for a song to benefit famine relief in Africa. Enlisting the help of his friend Michael Jackson, together they created an anthem of conscience and charity. "We Are the World" was an immediate success, topping music charts throughout the world. The initial shipment of singles sold out within three days, making it the fastest-selling American pop single in history, the biggest-selling single in both U.S. and pop music history, and the first single to ever be certified multi-platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. It won numerous honors, including three Grammy Awards, one American Music Award and a People's Choice Award. As of 2009, "We Are the World" sold more than 20 million units and raised over $63 million for humanitarian aid for Africa.
Quincy and Lionel had plans to organize a 2010 re-recording of "We Are the World" for the 25th anniversary of the original song. However, the devastating January earthquake in Haiti changed that. Quincy called Lionel and said, "This is what this song is written for, as a fundraising vehicle for causes, tragedies, catastrophes like this. Why don't we take over the process, call our friends, and actually do this?"
Lionel immediately agreed. "Unfortunately, sometimes it takes a hit record to make someone decide to save a life. I want this song to be the battle cry again. Every once in a while, you have to wake the world up. We slept right through Katrina. If we are not a socially aware culture, we're going to fail."
Produced by Quincy Jones, Lionel Richie and Haitian-American musician Wyclef Jean in the very same studio as the original, "We Are the World 25 for Haiti" was recorded by over 80 artists in little more than 14 hours. With updated music and lyrics, Richie said current artists were recruited to target a new audience, "We have a familiar song that kids learn in school. Why not bring in Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers and let them address the issues? It was designed so we wouldn't have any of the originals there; so that icons like Barbara Streisand and Celine Dion could pass on the baton to the next generation."
Debuted during the opening ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympics on February 12th, 2010, the song had 267,000 downloads in three days and charted at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, a higher debut than the original version, which was #21. "We Are the World" has demonstrated that diverse musicians can work together productively, and further influence the movement within pop music to create songs that address humane concerns.
Aside from his humanitarian efforts, Lionel Richie remains an iconic artist propelled by his immensely productive songwriting skills. After a series of international tour dates scheduled for 2011, Lionel will head into the studio to finalize his forthcoming album for Universal Music.