Lionel Ritchie - Still Truly Romantic and Easy

By Robert D Hill I am just your average guy working a number of yrs as a business analyst. A child that grew up in the 60's and 70's ... ... Lionel Ritchie is known for his romantic, easy-listening ballads which he composed and sang himself. Songs such as "Easy", "Three Times A Lady", "Still", and "Truly" have topped the charts and are still very popular across the generations. Lionel was born in Tuskegee, Alabama on June 20, 1949. He spent his early years on the campus of Tuskegee Institute and later moved to Illinois, where he completed his high school studies at Joliet Township High School, East Campus. His skills in tennis earned him a scholarship at the Tuskegee Institute where he graduated with a major in economics. In addition to his sports activities while at school in Tuskegee, he also formed different R&B groups during the mid-60s. One of these was the Commodores that he not so much started, but joined in 1968 as a saxophonist, and unbeknown to him at the time, his future was secured. The group acted as a support act to the Jacksons who were at the height of their popularity at the time. The Commodores' first recording contract was with Atlantic Records, but they moved to Motown Records after just one recording. This was an intelligent move, and at Motown the band established its name with danceable funky sounds such as "Machine Gun" and "Brick House". It was also at this time that Lionel started making his way to the mainstream as a songwriter and solo performer. He became identified with easy-listening romantic ballads which he wrote and performed himself. His songwriting skills became more appreciated and recognized during the late 1970s when he wrote songs for other artists, rather than just for himself. His composition "Lady" for Kenny Rogers made it to the top of the charts in 1980 and Rogers insisted that Lionel produce his album "Share Your Love" in 1981. He sang a duet with Diana Ross in 1981, "Endless Love", a theme song for the film of the same title. Considered as one of Motown's biggest hits, this single topped the UK and US pop charts, and in 1982, Ritchie decided to take on a solo career. This move gave Lionel Ritchie recognition as an American singer, songwriter and record producer who sold over 100 million records. In 1982, his self-titled debut album "Lionel Ritchie" was able to make three hit singles. One of the three that still contained his Commodores style was the chart-topping "Truly". This single launched his career to instant popularity and included him in the list as one of the most successful balladeers of the 80s. The other two hit songs that hit the top 5 were "You Are" and "My Love". With his first album having sold more than 4 million copies and hitting no. 3 on the charts, a follow up album titled "Can't Slow Down" was released in 1983. This one surpassed the first, selling more that 8 million copies and won the Grammy award for Album of the Year. The album contained his no. 1 hit "All Night Long", very effectively promoted by a colorful music video that enhanced the Caribbean flavor of the song. A string of four top ten hits followed in 1994, including the Number One hit "Hello" that took him away from his R&B image and was also his most successful recording. The other three were "Stuck on You" at no.3, "Running With the Night" at no.7, and "Penny Lover" at no.8. In 1985, he wrote and performed "Say You, Say Me" which stayed no.1 in the US Charts for four weeks. This theme song for the film White Nights earned him the Number 1 song of 1985 and one critic' description of him as "the black Barry Manilow." Rather an insult to many of Lionel's fans! Another achievement of the year was his teamwork with Michael Jackson's charitable trust that resulted to the no.1 hit single "We Are the World" by USA for Africa. Another successful album titled "Dancing on the Ceiling" was released in 1986. This contained among others his aforementioned hits "Say You, Say Me" and "Dancing on the Ceiling", and also "Ballerina Girl", and "Se La". It is here where the effective use of music video accompanied the title cut, and was also in the same lively tempo of "All Night Long (All Night)". After this successful album, Ritchie's career slowed down while he was taking care of his ill father Lionel Ritchie, Sr. in Alabama who died in 1990. In 1992, he released his album "Back to Front", a collection of his first greatest-hits, after which he maintained a very limited public exposure. It was in 1996 when he decided to return with the release of "Louder than Words", a song that showed he had not lost his skills of well-crafted soul music. However, it did not receive the same acclaim that is 1980s works received - perhaps due to his lack of exposure over the preceding couple of years. Lionel's married and family life was a combination of ups and downs. In 1975, he married his college sweetheart Brenda Harvey. Their marriage didn't work well and they separated, after which Lionel had a relationship with Diane Alexander in 1986. Brenda discovered the affair in 1988 and their divorce was finally declared on August 9, 1993 after 17 years of marriage. Lionel married Diane Alexander on December 21, 1995 but divorced in January 2004. They had a son, Miles Brochman born on May 27, 1994 and a daughter Sofia born on August 26, 1998. Although his solo singing career did not manage to take off the second time, Ritchie was still able to produce six top 80 singles in the UK after 2004. He also made a few live appearances on some special occasions, and appeared on Top Gear, a British motoring TV series. The segment was "Star in a Reasonably Priced Car" where he was featured with his Suzuki Liana and interviewed by host Jeremy Clarkson. He was also reunited with Kenny Rogers on a CMT crossroads special. Their friendship both in and out of the music world was featured in this November 2005 episode. Ritchie also hosted and performed on the British TV show An Audience with Lionel Ritchie on December 9, 2006. He was able to perform his hit song "Hello" during the Grammy Awards on February 11, 2007, and the grand finale performing "All Night Long (All Night)" on the Australian Idol show on November 25, 2007. His more recent performances include the New Year's Eve at Time's Square on December 31, 2008, and on the Season 8 of American idol with contestant Danny Gokey on May 20, 2009. Ritchie received the George and Ina Gershwin Lifetime Achievement Award on May 2, 2008, making him the 21st recipient of this prestigious award. 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