This Day In History: June 20th
Singer and songwriter, Lionel Richie, has released more than ten albums over the span of his five-decade career. Richie got his start as a founding member of the popular R&B group, the Commodores and has since become a worldwide musical talent and television personality.
Lionel Brockman Richie was born on June 20, 1949, in Tuskegee, Alabama. His family had a close connection to Tuskegee University and its founder, Booker T. Washington because two generations of family members worked at the institution. He was raised in a close-knit community and thought of becoming a preacher before finding his passion for music.
Richie graduated from Tuskegee University with an economics degree, but his focus became his new group, the Commodores. He played saxophone and piano for the group as well as sang and wrote songs. By the end of the 1970s, the group found success with songs such as “Easy” and “Brick House,” which became a funk anthem.
Despite finding success as a group, by 1982 Richie was prepared to become a solo artist after establishing himself as a reputable singer and songwriter. He released his self-titled debut album and the lead single, “Truly,” became a number one hit by the end of the year. After the release of his second album, Can’t Slow Down (1983), Richie teamed up with Michael Jackson to co-write the charity single “We Are the World.” It became a fan favorite and sold more than 20 million copies.
After a hiatus from music, Richie began releasing albums such as Louder Than Words (1996), Renaissance (2000), Just for You (2004) and Just Go (2009). His later released albums were met with mixed reviews until he released a country music album, Tuskegee (2012). The album featured country music stars like Shania Twain and Blake Shelton. After the release of the album, Richie continued touring and even secured “Lionel Richie – All The Hits” residency in Las Vegas.
Lionel Richie has been recognized for his musical abilities with numerous awards including a Grammy, NAACP Image Award, BET Lifetime Achievement Award and recognition as a Kennedy Center honoree. In 2018, Richie was reintroduced to fans as a judge on the long-running show, American Idol.