The singer doesn't know if he's going to be a grandpa, but says his daughter is "living her life"

By Mark Lambert
July 09, 2007 08:00 AM

Lionel Richie says he doesn’t know if daughter Nicole is pregnant, and he poked fun at himself for being an out-of-touch dad on Saturday by pleading, “Nicole, baby, call me!”

But the pop legend was serious in discussing how his life might change if his daughter is pregnant.

“Grandpa, man, that’s wild,” Richie told PEOPLE just minutes after performing at the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans on Saturday. “I don’t know if I’m going to be grandpa, I don’t know if I’m ready to be called grandpa.”

Richie says Nicole is “living her life under a microscope, but it’s the kind of life you live at that age.”

Richie also told a group of reporters he believes his daughter is “fabulous. She keeps apologizing [about being in the news so much], I tell you, she’s doing exactly what you’re supposed to do… she’s living her life. If we had cell phones, MySpace, Internet back then, God knows what my parents would have known about The Commodores.”

Richie, looking fit in blue jeans and a white dress shirt, played several of his well-known hits from Commodores era to an appreciative crowd in the Superdome on the final day of the Essence Music Festival. The festival returned to New Orleans this year after a one-year move to Houston while the Katrina-damaged Superdome was being repaired. Richie also closed out the Jazz and Heritage Festival last year just months after Katrina.

“There comes a time in your career when people tell you that you’ve made it, and that’s what I feel has happened to me,” Richie tells PEOPLE. “I just feel completely honored to apply these songs to be part of helping New Orleans recover, and I’m humbled by how this city has embraced me.”

Saturday’s concert also featured Mary J. Blige, Kelly Rowland, Ne-Yo and Maze featuring Frankie Beverly. Richie noted that the emphasis of Saturday’s music was “the foundation of how we got started. That, what you heard tonight, was pure foundation. I’m just sorry I didn’t have my platform shoes and Afro.”

Richie says his immediate plans are to work on an album with Ne-Yo and go on tour in Europe and Australia.

Rowland, who performed snippets of several songs for about 20 minuets as the first act on Saturday, told reporters the last time she was in New Orleans was as a member of Destiny’s Child. She said she is focusing on a “mature, more confident image” as a solo artist and hopes she can inspire children to consider a career in music.

Said Rowland: “When I was four, I told my momma, ‘I want to sing on stage like Whitney Houston with a red dress on.'”