Lionel Brockman Richie was born on June 20th, 1949, a birth that would affect my life 27yrs later.
In the spring of 1976, my dad made me take out the garbage. I was mad because I hated putting the garbage out, but when I returned, I held in my hand a priceless diamond that changed and enriched my life forever!
A cassette tape of music I had not heard before, from a band I heard of but did not know it was there music and did not know the band very well.
"Just to be close to you," "Fancy Dancer" and "High on Sunshine" were just some of the songs on the cassette tape. Much to my surprise was the quality of the recording. It was clean and punchy. I could not express the recording in those terms in 1976. I just knew it sounded great! Much better than the recordings I would make from the radio!
Weeks earlier, I had decided to become a musician. It's amazing how the universe works. It seems to hear what we ask for and provides it!
I played the songs on the tape for my older brothers best friend Therese. She told me, that's The Commodores! She had the album all of those songs were on, "Hot off The Tracks." A few days later she brought the album to my house. She told me I could keep it. I still have that album to this very day with her name on it. Though she has passed away...
Once I had the album. I started reading the album credits. I wanted to know who produced it, what label it was on, who were the band members and who wrote the songs. Again, I didn't know that back in those days. I was just reading everything on the album!
I began to notice the name L. Richie on many of the songs. Either L. Richie was the only songwriter, or he was a co-writer on songs. And what made it more interesting was, it was all of the songs I loved!
I wanted to know who L. Richie was! Keep in mind. I had no desire to be a songwriter. The thought at that time never crossed my mind. Being a bass player was my thing. Yet, interest must have been growing that I was not aware of because I just had to know who L. Richie was!
Then one Saturday morning. I was watching either Soul Train or American Bandstand. And the Commodores were on. I loved the lead singer, I loved his voice, I loved his stage presence and more! Yet, all I wanted to know was, who is L. Richie!
I prayed that the host would talk to the band members. I thought maybe L. Richie was in the band and he'd say his name. I did know that songwriters were not always in the band.
As always, at the end of the song. The show's host went around with the microphone and asked each member their name. When he came to the lead singer, he said, "my name is Lionel Richie." My heart skipped a beat! You'd think I had met the love of my life! I just knew he had to be the L.Richie all over the records! And from that day on. Lionel Richie has been my idol.
I laser watched everything he and the Commodores did. I bought every album soon as it came out even if I had never heard any of the songs on the album. It didn't matter. I knew I'd like whatever song he wrote for the band. I knew when I started my band that I wanted to be the main songwriter in the band.
I copied how Lionel Richie dressed, I copied his style of singing, I tried to copy how he talked, how he walked, but most of all, I copied his songwriting style, lyric and his piano playing style. My entire world revolved around Lionel Richie and the Commodores! I even started a Commodores scrapbook which I still have. This was the beginning of me finding my musical self.
"For me, it's hard to believe that Lionel Richie is turning 70 years old this month." When I first discovered him and the Commodores in 1976, he had not turned 27 years old yet. Back then, I never thought I'd be so connected to him for now over 40yrs, but I am! It got so bad at one point. Music industry professional had to straight out tell me to stop listening to Lionel Richie!
They felt I had my own sound, and because I was listening to Lionel and the Commodores so much, I was suppressing my original sound, and they were right! I've gotta tell you. It was not easy at all to stop listening to Lionel and the Commodores! It was like taking a crack pipe from a crack head! I'm happy that I did it because, in less than a year, my sound started shining through.
“For me, it's hard to believe that Lionel Richie is turning 70 years old this month..”
I'm not a fan of his current music. I feel he's jumped on the mainstream bandwagon of today's sound. Over the years he collaborated with other artists to re-record his classic songs. It's cool, but I wish he'd just stay true to himself, or find a new Lionel Richie sound and not follow today's mainstream music.
The songs he wrote between 1973 and 1983 continue to inspire me as a composer. His music still gives me ideas on new songs that I'm writing.
Crazy as it sounds, Deep inside, I still believe Lionel Richie and I, will work together one day.