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Lionel Richie may be planning to party, karamu, fiesta all night on May 17th of this year. It was then that he will receive the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.
The award celebrates “the work of an artist whose career reflects lifelong achievements in promoting song as a vehicle for musical expression and cultural understanding,” according to the Library of Congress, which created the Gershwin Prize in 2007. Since then he has been bequeathed to a veritable galaxy of musical superstars, including Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Emilio and Gloria Estefan and most recently, Garth Brooks.
“This is truly the honor of a lifetime, and I am very grateful to receive the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song,” Richie said in a statement. “I am proud to join all of the other previous artists, whom I also admire and love their music.”
Richie, 72, who wrote “Endless Love”, is behind a seemingly endless catalog of hits including “Lady”, “Truly”, “All Night Long (All Night)”, “Penny Lover “,” Stuck on You “,” Hello “,” Tell me, tell me “and” Dance on the ceiling “. He has sold over 125 million albums worldwide and has been a judge on ABC’s American Idol over the past four seasons.
Born in Tuskagee, Alabama, Richie was a tennis star and an economics student, but his passion was for R&B. In 1968 he joined the then college funk group The Commodores and became a Motown fixture, touring with The Jackson 5 and recording with Diana Ross. In the 1980s, Richie became a magnetic megastar, writing and performing haunting (and sometimes sentimental) hit songs for 11 consecutive years.
Among the musician’s most notable accomplishments is his co-writing of the single “We Are the World” with Michael Jackson to raise money for famine relief in Africa. Recorded with dozens of celebrities in 1985 (including a few future Gershwin Prize winners), it remains one of the best-selling physical singles in history.
“In many ways, this national honor has gone to Lionel Richie whose music has entertained and inspired us – and helped strengthen our global ties,” Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden said in a statement. “Lionel Richie’s unforgettable work has shown us that music can bring us together. Even when we face problems and disagree on issues, songs can show us what we have in common.”
Plans are in place for PBS to air a televised tribute concert in Washington, DC on May 17, 2022 to mark the occasion.