Today in Music History (October 6): Lionel Richie goes Solo

October 6, 1982 - Lionel Richie goes solo with debut album

He was on top of the world as the lead singer and principal songwriter for The Commodores, but on this day in 1982, Lionel Richie completed a much anticipated career move, becoming a solo artist and issuing a massive selling self-titled solo debut album. It began an enviable solo career that continues now, four decades later.

A founding member of the Commodores, Richie was the heart of that group's most memorable music, and steered the band from its funky roots to an uber-popular pop/soul sound, resulting in hit after hit from 1976-81. Songs like "Easy," "Three Times A Lady," "Sail On," and a dozen other songs made the Commodores an A-List act, and Richie served as songwriter and singer of a majority of the band's smashes.

October 6, 1982 - Lionel Richie goes solo with debut album

He was on top of the world as the lead singer and principal songwriter for The Commodores, but on this day in 1982, Lionel Richie completed a much anticipated career move, becoming a solo artist and issuing a massive selling self-titled solo debut album. It began an enviable solo career that continues now, four decades later.

A founding member of the Commodores, Richie was the heart of that group's most memorable music, and steered the band from its funky roots to an uber-popular pop/soul sound, resulting in hit after hit from 1976-81. Songs like "Easy," "Three Times A Lady," "Sail On," and a dozen other songs made the Commodores an A-List act, and Richie served as songwriter and singer of a majority of the band's smashes.

After his 1981 smash duet with Diana Ross, the treacley "Endless Love," it became clear that both Motown and Richie planned a career for him beyond the Commodores, and an exit for a solo career was inevitable. Working with longtime Commodores producer James Anthony Carmichael, Richie fashioned a debut album that was everything his newly found adult contemporary fans had hoped for.  Beginning with the pop ballad "Truly," it was a shimmering pop/soul disc beginning to end.  And while some longtime Commodores fans simmered at the lack of funk on the disc, Richie showed himself to be a masterful writer of irresistible melodies and firmly established himself as one of the top pop singers in the world.  At its best (such as on the oft-forgotten gem "You Are" and the mini-song "Just Put Some Love In Your Heart"), the disc included some of the most melodic tunes of its time.

The Lionel Richie album would be the first of three chart-topping smashes, the biggest of which would be Richie's Grammy-winning sophomore album, Can't Slow Down; He would also take a lead writing and singing role in the iconic "We Are The World" recording.

Family issues and the changing music market slowed down the Lionel Richie train beginning in the late 80s, but he never left, issuing popular albums as recently as 2012's #1 comeback album, Tuskegee, a collection of country duet covers of some of his biggest hits. 

Richie's universal appeal was displayed in a massive 2019 tour, celebrating nearly five decades of group and solo hits, even as he celebrated his 70th birthday. And, of course, a good part of that tour was spent performing songs from the album we celebrate today.

by Chris Rizik

 

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