Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

If You Have a Song People Love, Play It; Lionel Richie Very Nearly Gave Up Singing after Leaving the Commodores, but 30 Years on, He's Playing One of the Most Famous Festivals and Going on Tour. Andy Welch Catches Up with a Legend

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

If You Have a Song People Love, Play It; Lionel Richie Very Nearly Gave Up Singing after Leaving the Commodores, but 30 Years on, He's Playing One of the Most Famous Festivals and Going on Tour. Andy Welch Catches Up with a Legend

Article excerpt

Byline: Andy Welch

LIONEL RICHIE loves being in the UK. He says he's seen our capital city change dramatically since he first came here with his band The Commodores around 1973; the architecture, mainly, the cultural diversity, the food and so on. The biggest change, however, has been brought about by technology.

"I remember walking into a restaurant with a friend and before my first drink arrived, another friend called from Los Angeles to say he hoped I enjoyed my meal," he recalls. "A photo of me in the restaurant was posted somewhere and he'd seen it. That was about eight years ago too, it's even worse now."

Nevertheless, it's not enough to stop Richie, who begins a UK tour in February, from enjoying himself while he's here.

"It's really fun to go on tour now, because all of my friends show up. They're dotted all over the world. It's exhausting, I'll be doing promo in the day, a show at night and then seeing friends in the evening.

"I never want to miss anything. It actually motivates me to do another album, and to keep on touring, so I can keep up with the great friends I've made in the last century."

He laughs a hearty laugh, and apologises for joking so much.

"I've had three double espressos, so what am I going to do?" he reasons.

He has, however, made a lot of big-name friends. When talking about Brick House, his 1977 hit single with The Commodores, he casually mentions his friend Steve dropped by the studio that night to see what the band were up to. Steve who? "Oh sorry, Stevie Wonder," he says. "I forget sometimes. I'll be talking about a conversation I had with Michael years ago, and then I have to say it's Michael Jackson I'm talking about."

Richie's enthusiasm for seemingly everything he talks about is infectious and he seems more engaged in popular culture than many artists of his age and stature.

"It's called being in the business," he responds. "I actually like what I'm doing, and yes, it probably does show.

"You have to be in the business, you have to be eye to eye with everyone else. (Legendary TV and radio personality) Dick Clark said something to me a long time ago when he was 70-something.

"He looked like a teenager still, just as he had done when I was watching him on American Bandstand in the 1950s. He said 'Always stay eye to eye with who you're dealing with'.

"I'm eye to eye with Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus, and Kanye and Justin Timberlake.

"I mean, I know they're not contemporaries of mine as such - I have my group; Sting and Elton John and people my age - but if I'm going to be in this business, I need to know who all those young artists are and what they're up to. That's my job. I have to meet them. I have to know The Weeknd and Bruno Mars or I'm not officially in the business. …

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