Lionel Richie Biography: Life and Career of the Singer

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
Born June 20th, 1949 in Tuskegee, Alabama, Lionel Richie joined the Commodores while in university. He found much success with the soul group after they signed with Motown Records in the 1970s with soft, romantic ballads. However, Richie took the solo route in the 80s and found even more success on his own. His R&B and pop tunes won him Grammys, number one albums and more; with some of his most notable hits being "All Night Long (All Night)" and "Hello." The singer is still making music to this day. In this video, we take a look at the life and career of Lionel Richie.
This singer is once, twice, three times the entertainer. Welcome to and today we’re taking a look at the life and career of Lionel Richie.

Growing Up

Lionel Richie was born June 20th, 1949 in Tuskegee, Alabama. He grew up on the campus of the historically black Tuskegee Institute, where he was introduced to a melting pot of musical influences like gospel, country, pop, soul and classical. His family later relocated to Joliet, Illinois where the soon-to-be hit composer graduated from high school. Richie then returned to the Tuskegee Institute on a tennis scholarship and studied economics.


While attending university, Richie joined several students in a soul group that eventually became known as the Commodores. At first, they played small club shows but struggled to break into the mainstream. But soon, an opening gig for The Jackson 5 led to a contract with Motown Records, where The Commodores really began to flourish.

Success with the Commodores

The group’s first few albums were funky, upbeat, dance-oriented efforts that featured hit singles like 1974’s “Machine Gun” and 1977’s “Brick House.” As time went on, the Commodores adopted a softer, more romantic ballad-type sound, which is where they found their groove. Some of their most memorable ballads were written and performed by Richie himself, most notably the number one singles “Still” and “Three Times a Lady.”

Kenny Rogers and Diana Ross

In 1980, Richie’s career as a songwriter and producer was given a boost when he wrote Kenny Rogers’ number-one hit “Lady.” His 1981 duet with Diana Ross for the film “Endless Love” proved to be another milestone in Richie’s career outside the Commodores as it also topped the U.S. charts and was eventually named the number one duet of all time.

Solo Career

With momentum in his corner, Richie released his first solo album the next year. The self- titled R&B release climbed to number three on the charts and produced the Grammy-winning number one track “Truly.” He quickly followed that with two top five singles: “You Are” and “My Love.”

Number One Album and Grammy Award

Richie’s second album, 1983’s Can't Slow Down, was an even bigger triumph as it topped the Billboard charts and stayed in the top ten for all of 1984. It also won the Grammy for Album of the Year, and contained two of Richie’s biggest hits: the Caribbean-tinged “All Night Long (All Night)” and the love ballad “Hello.”

Oscar Win and More Success

“The Black Barry Manilow” continued thriving through the rest of the ‘80s. He won an Oscar for the number one pop song “Say You, Say Me” from the 1985 film “White Nights,” and co-wrote the chart-topping charity single “We Are the World” with Michael Jackson.

Decline in Popularity

Richie released his third album, Dancing on the Ceiling in 1986. Despite reaching the number one spot on the Billboard charts, the effort left critics less than thrilled. However, Richie did find some country success with the single “Deep River Woman” featuring country group Alabama.

Brief Hiatus

With his work schedule beginning to take its toll, Richie took a break from music to look after his dying father in the late 1980s. He returned to recording in 1992 with the greatest hits collection Back to Front, which contained three new songs.

More Music

Unfortunately, Richie was unable to reclaim his former glory in the 1990s with the albums Louder Than Words and Time. The next decade also saw Richie achieve only modest commercial sales in the U.S. with the discs Renaissance, Just for You, Coming Home and Just Go. He did, however, find some European success with these records, and even saw a surge in the popularity of his older work in several Arab states, where he also made performances.


After years of recording pop, soul and R&B music, Richie took the country route in 2012. Named after his hometown, the album Tuskegee offered recordings of his classic songs performed with various country stars.

Personal Life

With respect to his personal life, Richie’s two marriages produced three children, including adopted daughter and television personality Nicole Richie.


Lionel Richie is a talented singer, songwriter and composer who has given the musical world some of the greatest love songs of all-time, while continuing to be a pioneer in Contemporary R&B. With his boundless energy, Richie shows he can truly entertain his fans “All Night Long.”