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Internationally renowned singer-songwriter, record producer and 1974 Tuskegee University graduate Lionel Richie was among the five artists honored on Sunday, Dec. 3 by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts with its 2017 Kennedy Center Honors.
“The Kennedy Center Honors spotlights the extraordinary careers of five artists whose talent and ingenuity have enriched and shaped cultural life in America,” stated Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein. “Lionel Richie’s irresistibly recognizable melodies capture the heart and transcend generations.”
Richie’s co-honorees included American dancer and choreographer Carmen de Lavallade, Cuban American singer-songwriter and actress Gloria Estefan, American hip hop artist and entertainment icon LL COOL J, and American television writer and producer Norman Lear. The honorees received their Kennedy Center Honors medallions on Saturday, Dec. 2 at the State Department Dinner and Awards Ceremony hosted by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. The 40th Annual Kennedy Center Honors Gala, held the following evening, was recorded for broadcast as a two-hour primetime special to air on CBS on Tuesday, Dec. 26 at 9 p.m. ET.
Rubenstein continued, “Each of this year’s honorees became known to and loved by the world because of their complete originality and bold genius. They are creators of the highest order, and as President Kennedy’s living memorial, the Kennedy Center is so proud to shine a light on their boundless ‘contributions to the human spirit.’”
Selection of the Honors recipients recognized for their lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing arts — whether in music, dance, theater, opera, motion pictures, or television — begins with a solicitation of recommendations from the Kennedy Center Board of Trustees, the artistic community, and the general public. The center’s Special Honors Advisory Committee chooses the Honors recipients, who are then confirmed by the Executive Committee of the center’s Board of Trustees. The primary criterion in the selection process is excellence. The Honors are not designated by art form or category of artistic achievement; the selection process, over the years, has produced balance among the various arts and artistic disciplines.
Richie, a native of Tuskegee, Alabama, who graduated from Tuskegee with an economics degree in 1974 before staking his claim to a professional music career that has spanned three decades, has a discography of albums and singles that are second to none. His music is part of the fabric of pop music; in fact, Richie is one of only two songwriters in history to achieve the honor of having No. 1 records for nine consecutive years. With more than 100 million albums sold worldwide, an Oscar, a Golden Globe, five Grammy Awards, 16 American Music Awards, and the distinction of MusicCares person of the year in 2016, he is a true music icon.
His accolades don’t stop there. Richie has been honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, an ASCAP Lifetime Achievement Award, a United Negro College Fund Achievement Award, induction into both the Songwriters Hall of Fame and Alabama Music Hall of Fame, and the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences’ Governors Award — just to name a few. And, in 2010, Tuskegee University bestowed upon him an honorary doctorate of music degree.
Richie’s celebrated mega-hits include “Endless Love,” “Lady,” “Truly,” “All Night Long,” “Penny Lover,” “Stuck on You,” “Hello,” “Say You, Say Me,” “Dancing on the Ceiling,” and one of the most important pop songs in history, “We Are the World,” written with Michael Jackson for USA for Africa. His song catalog also includes his early work with The Commodores, where he developed a groundbreaking style that defied genre categories, penning smashes such as “Three Times a Lady,” “Still,” and “Easy.”
During his most recent “All the Hits, All Night Long Tour,” Richie sold out arenas worldwide with a set list of his brightest and best anthems. Richie launched his Las Vegas headlining residency show, “Lionel Richie-All the Hits,” at The AXIS at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in April 2016. In an unforgettable evening featuring his brightest and best anthems, which have defined the music icon’s unparalleled career, Richie takes his fans on a spectacular musical journey, performing a variety of his seminal hits. Currently, he has joined country singer Luke Bryan and singer-songwriter Katy Perry as a judge for this season of ABC’s “American Idol” reality singing competition television program.
To learn more, visit kennedy-center.org.
© 2017 Tuskegee University