Internationally acclaimed singer, song writer, entertainer, Lionel Richie is an alum of Tuskegee University. During his college years, Richie was lead singer, saxophonist and a founding member of The Commodores, a funk-pop group formed on the campus of Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University). After being featured on the group's hits "Easy," "Sail On" and "Three Times a Lady," Richie departed from the band in the early 1980's and became an even greater success as a solo act, hitting No. 1 on the pop charts with singles like "Hello," "All Night Long" and "Say You, Say Me."
Shortly after leaving The Commodores, his did a duet "Endless Love" with Diana Ross, which reached the top of the charts. In 1982, he released his debut solo album Lionel Richie, which quickly became a hit on the U.S. Billboard charts. One ballad from that album, "Truly," climbed to the top of the charts, also garnering him a Grammy Award for best male pop vocal performance.
Having sold over 100 million albums worldwide, landed twenty Top Ten hits (including nine consecutive #1 songs); won ten American Music Awards, five Grammys, a Golden Globe, six People's Choice Awards and a Best Original Song Oscar for "Say You (Say Me)," Richie has achieved worldwide stardom.
As a passionate activist, Richie co-wrote with Michael Jackson the USA for Africa benefit tune, "We Are the World," which was recorded by an all-star cast of popular singers and became a huge hit. He also has helped to raise over $3.1 million for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, stating that his grandmother, who survived the disease, was his enduring symbol of hope and his reason for becoming a breast cancer activist.
Richie was honored by the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) during its "Evening of Stars" (airdate Jan. 23-24, 2010) for his career and commitment to education. Held at the at the Pasadena Civic Center in Pasadena, Calif., the UNCF presented Richie with the "Award of Excellence" for his successful career and longtime support for education. The roster of performers included nine-time Grammy Award winner Natalie Cole, Akon, Jesse McCartney, Grammy-Award winner, Chrisette Michele, Boney James, Katharine McPhee, Ledisi, Johnny Gill, James Ingram, Brian McKnight, Mary Mary's Erica Campbell and 25–time Grammy Award winner Stevie Wonder.
Selected as speaker for the 2010 Tuskegee University Spring Commencement exercises, Richie announced a program of internships and scholarships for Tuskegee students to help them study, learn and join the management ranks of the music and entertainment industry. The announcement and speech were delivered Live via satellite, showcasing the University's capabilities. Following his commencement address, he received the Tuskegee University President's Distinguished Service Award from Dr. Benjamin F. Payton, the fifth president of Tuskegee University.
Richie visited the campus on Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2011 to meet with Tuskegee University’s sixth president, Gilbert L. Rochon, to discuss plans for the Lionel Richie Foundation to build a museum bearing Richie’s name. The foundation will also establish an internship program and long-distance learning center on the historic campus. Richie revealed these plans at the university’s 2010 commencement program via satellite.
Richie appeared on NBC’s “Who Do You Think You Are?” on Friday, March 4, 2011 at 7 p.m. CST. Some of the university’s campus, as well as the city of Tuskegee, were featured in the segment.
Richie, along with fellow alum Tom Joyner, returned to the campus of Tuskegee University for the celebration of the release of the multi-million dollar movie "RedTails," about the Tuskegee Airmen, which was produced by George Lucas. The on-campus celebration was attended by some of the original Tuskegee Airmen and "RedTails" cast members, film stars Terrence Howard, Elijak Kelley, David Oyelowo, Nate Parker and Tristan Wilds. "RedTails" director, Anthony Hemingway met and greeted fans along with all of the cast members, except Cuba Gooding Jr.
On Encore, Richie has assembled a collection of his best-known hits - from "Brick House" to "Dancing On The Ceiling" and "Three Times A Lady" to "Hello" - recorded over three nights at London's Wembley Arena. Also included on the album are two new studio tracks, "Goodbye" and "To Love A Woman," a duet with Enrique Iglesias.
Encore's other new track, "Goodbye," addresses the untimely departure of a loved one; Richie thinks of it as a bookend to his hit song "Hello." Comments Richie: "'Goodbye' addresses the unexpected reality that the word 'forever' can come to an end, and that is a very difficult feeling to put into words."
Richie explores many facets of life in his songs, but he's most at home when he's singing what he knows best: big, emotional love songs. He readily confesses luck has played a big role in his songwriting efforts. "Of all the topics in the world to write about, I got lucky and chose love...and it's the only thing that doesn't go out of style," Richie declares. "I don't care if you're twenty, fifty or one hundred. I don't care if you like grunge, metal, country, pop, gangsta rap or R&B. It doesn't matter; sooner or later you're going to say those three corny words to someone. And when you use those three words you've just stepped into my arena."
From his humble beginnings in Tuskegee, Alabama, to his current iconic international success, Richie maintains he's still a "country boy at heart" who genuinely loves life, music...and his fans. "Frank Sinatra told me: if you're lucky enough in this business to have one hit record and the fans ask you to play it over and over again, you've got yourself a career," he recalls. "And if you find yourself with more than one hit record, well, you're the luckiest man on the planet.
"Even after all this time it's not a job. It's the greatest hobby I've ever had, and it just happens to be the way I make my living. I love making music and it's wonderful to have the opportunity to share it with people...it's just phenomenal."