Special feature by Jenny Clark
The man, the myth, the…priest? Almost! Today, we offer a hearty Black History Month salute to Lionel Richie, who almost skipped over his music career to become a man of the cloth.
Richie was born and raised in Tuskegee, Alabama, and was a star tennis player in high school in Joliet, IL. He eventually returned to his southern roots and accepted a tennis scholarship to attend Tuskegee Institute, where he majored in economics. He did, however, consider becoming an Episcopal priest, but decided to pursue music.
As we all know, Richie started his career with The Commodores in 1968, before they signed with Motown Records. “Brick House” and “Machine Gun” are two of the band’s greatest, funky hits and, in the early ’80s, Richie moved on to a solo career and started with ballads like “Truly,” which jumped to #1 in the US. He went on to win four Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe, and an Academy Award for “Say You, Say Me,” which was featured in the film White Nights.
He’s also started to appeal to younger generations that were born long after his hit songs were released by appearing as a judge on American Idol since 2018. Richie has also been an outspoken activist for breast cancer awareness, citing his grandmother as his inspiration.
Thank you, Lionel, for not becoming a priest. The world would’ve been without a lot of great music.