Lionel Richie's Life in Photos

Lionel Richie has had a groundbreaking career as a singer, songwriter, and producer over the past five decades. From getting his start singing with the Commodores to serving as a judge on American Idol, here's a look back at his life in pictures in honor of his 73rd birthday on June 20

01 of 15

Lionel Richie's Early Life

Singer Lionel Ritchie poses for a portrait in Los Angeles, California.
Aaron Rapoport/Corbis/Getty

Lionel Brockman Richie, Jr. was born on June 20, 1949 in Tuskegee, Alabama to parents Lionel Brockman Richie Sr. and Alberta R. Foster.

After graduating from high school, Richie attended Tuskegee Institute on a tennis scholarship. While attending the university, his was a member of two fraternities including Kappa Kappa Psi, a national honor fraternity for band members, and Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, "the first intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity established for African American men," per the fraternity's website.

While in college, Richie considered becoming a priest, but later decided against it to pursue his musical career instead. He later graduated from Tuskegee Institute with a Bachelor of Science degree in economics and a minor in accounting.

02 of 15

Lionel Richie's Music Career With the Commodores

USA Photo of Lionel RICHIE and COMMODORES, Posed studio group portrait, Lionel Richie

While studying at Tuskegee Institute, Richie formed the musical group known as the Commodores after meeting most of the members as freshmen. The six-man band — which included Richie, Thomas McClary, William King, Andre Callahan, Michael Gilbert, Milan Williams, and later Walter "Clyde" Orange — signed with Atlantic Records in 1968 before eventually moving on to Motown Records a year later.

After opening for the Jackson 5, the group rose in popularity during the late 1970s and early 1980s with hits like "Easy," "Three Times a Lady, " "Nightshift," and "Brick House."

03 of 15

Lionel Richie's Songwriting Success

AMERICAN BANDSTAND - Show Coverage - 12/9/82, Lionel Richie on the Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Television Network dance show "American Bandstand".,
ABC Photo Archives/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty

While singing with the Commodores, Richie gained prominence as a songwriter, penning hits for the funk and soul band as well as other artists, including "Happy People" by The Temptations and "Lady" by Kenny Rogers. He also produced Rogers' album Share Your Love in 1981.

04 of 15

Lionel Richie's "Endless Love" Duet With Diana Ross

ABC Photo Archives/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty

In 1981, Richie collaborated with Diana Ross as they sang the title theme song for the film Endless Love. Not only did the single top music charts, becoming one of Motown's biggest hits, but it received Academy Award and Golden Globe Award nominations for "Best Original Song" as well as five Grammy Award nominations.

05 of 15

Lionel Richie's Solo Career

Lionel Richie performing on stage at the Rosemont Horizon in Rosemont, Illinois, October 1, 1983.
Paul Natkin/Getty

Following the success of "Endless Love," Richie eventually branched out as a solo artist in 1982. The following year, he was replaced as lead singer for the Commodores by Skyler Jett.

He released his debut solo album Lionel Richie in 1982, achieving three hit singles in the process, including his No. 1 song "Truly." The following year, he released Can't Slow Down, which propelled him into superstardom with two No. 1 hits and two Grammy wins.

Throughout the '80s, Richie continued to release hit songs, including "Hello," "Say You, Say Me," and "Dancing on the Ceiling," the latter from his 1986 album of the same name.

06 of 15

Lionel Richie's "We Are the World" Collaboration

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After opening for the Jackson 5 many years ago, Richie collaborated with Michael Jackson again in 1985 as they co-wrote the charity single "We Are the World" in an effort to raise money for famine relief in Africa. The single included a collection of artists, including Richie, Jackson, Kenny Rogers, Tina Turner, Billy Joel, Cyndi Lauper, and Diana Ross, under the name USA for Africa.

In addition to raising over $60 million for humanitarian aid in Africa and the United States, the song was a worldwide commercial success, topping the charts and eventually becoming the first single to be certified multi-platinum. It also took home numerous awards, including three Grammy Awards, one American Music Award, and a People's Choice Award.

In 1986, a handful of members from USA for Africa reunited onstage at the American Music Award to perform the song.

07 of 15

Lionel Richie's Grammy Wins

Pictured is Lionel Richie on THE 27TH ANNUAL GRAMMY AWARDS, February 26, 1985, Shrine Auditorium, Los Angeles, CA.
CBS via Getty

Throughout his career, Richie has won four Grammy Awards out of the 32 he's been nominated for, including song of the year for "We Are the World" alongside Jackson and album of the year for Can't Slow Down in 1984.

In 2016, Richie was honored as the MusiCares Person of the Year and was honored with a special tribute performance during the Grammys featuring artists such as John Legend, Demi Lovato, Luke Bryan, and Meghan Trainor.

08 of 15

Lionel Richie's Oscar Win

Lionel Richie kisses his Oscar after winning the award for Say You, Say Me from White Nights.
Bettmann Archive/Getty

In addition to having a handful of Grammy wins, Richie is also an Oscar winner. In 1986, he took home Best Original Song for White Nights' "Say You, Say Me." He was also received Best Original Song nominations for "Endless Love" in Endless Love in 1982 and "Miss Celie's Blues" in The Color Purple in 1986 alongside Quincy Jones and Rod Temperton.

09 of 15

Lionel Richie's Hollywood Walk of Fame Star

Lionel Richie during Lionel Richie Honored with a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for His Achievements in Music at Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California, United States.
Steve Grayson/WireImage

In June 2003, Richie was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. For the ceremony, Richie was joined by his three children as well as celebrity friends Jay Leno and Jimmie "Jam" Harris.

He later returned to the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2020 as he spoke on stage to honor chairman and chief executive officer of Universal Music Group, Sir Lucian Grainge.

10 of 15

Lionel Richie's Glastonbury Festival Performance

Lionel Richie performs at the Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm, Pilton on June 28, 2015 in Glastonbury, England.
Samir Hussein/Redferns via Getty

In June 2015, Richie received rave reviews for his performance at Glastonbury Festival in the U.K. According to BBC, the performance drew in the festival's "biggest crowd" at the time with at least 100,000 audience goers. The sets, which included performances of "Dancing on the Ceiling, "All Night Long," and "We Are the World," was later released in in cinemas worldwide in November 2019.

11 of 15

Lionel Richie's Berklee College of Music Honorary Degree

Lionel Richie received an Honory Doctor of Music Degree and spoke to students at the Berklee College of Music Commencement Execises at Agganis Arena at Boston University on May 13, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. Lucinda Williams, Shin Joong Hyun, Lionel Richie, Todd Rundgren and Neil Portnow all received Honorary Degrees and 1060 students graduated.
Paul Marotta/Getty

On top of being a singer and songwriter, Richie is also an honorary doctor. In May 2017, Richie was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Music at Berklee College of Music during its 2017 commencement.

12 of 15

Lionel Richie's Kennedy Center Honor

Lionel Richie arrives for the 40th Kennedy Center Honors December 3, 2017 in Washington, DC

In December 2017, Richie received the prestigious Kennedy Center Honors alongside Gloria Estefan, LL Cool J, Norman Lear, and Carmen de Lavallade.

13 of 15

Lionel Richie on American Idol

Walt Disney Television via Getty Images's "American Idol" judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan.
Eric Liebowitz/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty

In September 2017, Richie was announced as one of the three judges for the revival of American Idol alongside Katy Perry and Luke Bryan. He has appeared on the show as a judge since the revival aired, including the recent 20th season earlier this year.

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Lionel Richie's Children

Lionel Richie with his children
Lionel Richie/Instagram

Richie is a proud dad of three children: daughter Nicole Richie, whom he welcomed via adoption with ex Brenda Harvey, as well as son Miles Brockman and daughter Sofia Richie, whom he shares with ex-wife Diane Alexander.

In addition to attending various events with his children over the years, Richie also posts about them on social media. On Father's Day in 2021, he posted a group photo with his kids sporting matching sweatsuits, writing, "Best job I ever had. Love you all to the moon and back."

In 2008, Richie became a grandfather for the first time as Nicole gave birth to daughter Harlow with husband Joel Madden. Richie became a grandfather again when the couple's second child, son Sparrow, was born the following year.

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Lionel Richie's Recent Projects

Lionel Richie performs during his "Hello" tour at Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena At Harveys on August 17, 2019 in Stateline, Nevada.
Tim Mosenfelder/Getty

From his television appearances to his new music, Richie has been staying busy in recent years. In addition to touring around the world, Richie has a Las Vegas residency titled Lionel Richie: Back to Las Vegas! at Wynn Las Vegas.

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