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"Renaissance" is available at borders.com

"Renaissance" Man
With Lionel Richie

Friday, June 29, 2001; 4:15 p.m. EDT

"Hello," Lionel Richie. The man's been making hits for four decades, beginning with The Commodores doing straight ahead R&B and funk ("Brick House") and then on to a solo career (1981) with a more pop sound ("All Night Long," "Say You, Say Me"). He's done duets with Diana Ross ("Endless Love") and he co-wrote "We Are The World" with Michael Jackson. "I have never written with a specific sound in mind," Richie said recently. "When the song comes I just try and be ready."

Richie was online Friday, June 29, at 4:15 p.m. EDT, to talk about his music and his life.


With his latest album, "Renaissance," Richie says he decided to "go for the surprise rather than the sure thing." He has collaborated with renowned producers Walter Afanasieff, Rodney Jerkins (Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Brandy) and British producer Brian Rawling (Cher, Enrique Iglesias) and Mark Taylor. The album's first cut, "Angel," is his current single release.

A transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

Washington, D.C.: Are you on tour now?

Lionel Richie: Yes, I am on tour. I'm taking about a three-week break. I'm just now on my way back to Europe to finish the second half of it and then we should be in America by September/October, but this is a world tour and I'll be out for about a year and a half. And between that and the new album, it all happens at the same time.

Tallahassee, Fla: I love the new album, Lionel! Thanks for all the great music over the years. Are you aware of any plans to re-master and re-release your early solo albums and/or the Commodores back catalog? They were prepared for CD release many years ago and would benefit greatly from the advancements made in mastering technology in recent times. Thanks!

Lionel Richie: I couldn't have said it better. The answer is yes. With technology where it is right now, it is so wonderful to go back and re-master and actually remix all of the old songs.

Bowling Green, Ohio: You are a very talented songwriter. Do you get most of your inspiration (for your songs) from everyday experience.

Lionel Richie: It's actually my travels that really help tremendously. I watch people. I listen to their stories and I write their stories down. If it's not really happening to me, it's happening to someone else.

Las Vegas, N.M.: Lionel,

You are one of the few artists who I enjoy ALL of your work. Whose music do you like to listen to just for enjoyment?

Lionel Richie: I'm all across the board. From R&B to the new hybrids of pop music today. I draw from these influences to make up the music that I'm playing today.

Land O'Lakes, Fla.: Hello Mr. Richie,

Do you plan on ever recording a country album? Thank you.

Lionel Richie: The answer is I wouldn't put that past me. I could think about doing an album of country considering most of my songs are covered by country artists.

Aledo, Ill.: I know you have experienced a lot of losses in your family in the last ten years. I lost my father in October and I think about him and miss so much, where do you find all your strength to get through your losses?

Lionel Richie: The idea is called faith. I was raised on faith. Life is something you live. It is no dress rehearsal. My family was close and I enjoyed the times we had together. If you live it right, then the memories will always be there.

Washington, D.C.: Are you Easy like Sunday morning?

Lionel Richie: I try not to be but I probably am.

Lionel,: Hello, is it me you're looking for?

Lionel Richie: (LAUGHS) That's the greatest pick up line in the business.

Falls Church, Va.: What is your opinion on rap and hip hop music and the general trends in music today versus back when you were with the Commodores and beginning you solo career?

Lionel Richie: The big difference is melody. The similarity is that every generation will bring to the table its own voice. What it considers radical. What it considers the edge. But in all cases it gets back to melody. So right now, we're on our way back to melody. There have been some great poets to come out of the rap era. It will be interesting to see how they (the rappers, the poets) log in the pages of music history.

Kensington, Md.: Is all the travel that you do hard on you?

Lionel Richie: I'll put it like this. The shows are easy. The travel is what makes it difficult. But it's fun. The reason I still do it is because it's the greatest no-job I've ever done in my life.

Vienna, Va.: Why did you take a break back in the early 90's from recording and touring? Do you think that hurt you?

Lionel Richie: I think it helped me tremendously. As a human being, it is important for me to live a balanced life. I was extremely famous but my friends and my family had no idea of who I was or what I was about and I needed to spend some time to connect.

Herndon, Va.: Do you mind getting questions about your personal life?

Lionel Richie: So what's new in the entertainment business? I would prefer not to, but it comes with the territory.

Washington, D.C.: You sang that song "Jesus Is Love" yesterday down at Ronald Reagan Building and said it was especially for D.C. Why?

Lionel Richie: Because over the years, that song has been the staple of the Donnie Simpson show forever. I just felt it was so much a part of D.C. that I had to play it.

New York, N.Y.: I was recently in Italy, and was delighted to hear your new music ("Angel" & "Cinderella") playing at clubs and on the radio. To what do you attribute the universality of your music?

Best wishes!

Lionel Richie: Music is amazingly universal and I write about a subject that is universal. I write about love. It's the only topic that does not go out of style. It is the only subject that doesn't require a language change. I write songs that people can relate to in their everyday lives. I wish I knew the formula for the other half of that, but I don't. It stays around but I don't know how that works. I wish I knew why. Generation after generation keeps singing these songs and I think it's because love does not go out of style.

Baltimore, Md.: Why did you call the new album Renaissance?

Lionel Richie: It actually is a rebirth. I've been doing this for 30+ years. I am now on my third generation of fans and I now have a seven-year-old not only singing "Angel," which is off my current album, but also he's singing "Easy." He wasn't born when I put that record out.

Lionel Richie: I started out as a club band called The Commodores. I put out "Angel" 30+ years later. I'm a club band again. That's called Renaissance. I'm back to one again. The old sound is the new sound.

Washington, D.C.: Are you and the Commodores getting back together on record or in concert?

Lionel Richie: That is a BIG, BIG question. Right now there are only two original members in the Commodores. The big task would be to get the original Commodores back together and then maybe that might happen. I've always believed sometimes that the mystique is better than the reality.

Arlington, Va.: How was it touring with Tina Turner? Didn't she tour with you back in the day?

Lionel Richie: Tina used my tour to launch her renaissance, her rebirth and I used Tina's tour to launch my renaissance, my rebirth.

Lionel Richie: Tina ... She's still the greatest pair of legs in the business.

Brooklyn, N.Y.: Did you like Faith No More's cover of "Easy"?

Lionel Richie: I was actually quite flattered that much about the song. Yes, I loved it.

Turkey: Love you very much. Do you think of coming to Turkey for a concert?

Lionel Richie: It's actually somewhere on the drawing board. I think it'll be 2002 before I get there.

San Jose, Calif.: How does your family deal with the traveling? Do they go on tour with you?

Lionel Richie: My wife and I have agreed that if we want a vacation while I'm on the road, we won't take the kids. The reality is we can't leave home home without 'em. So we try to balance it out that I don't stay out quite so long from home.

Dublin, Ireland: Lionel,
If there was one artist you would like to collaborate with or duet with, who would that be?

Stephen C.

Lionel Richie: Boy now that's a hard question 'cause females rule right now in the business. Let me give you a few names: Faith Hill, Anastacia, Whitney before we get too far in our careers; she's fantastic.

Fairfax, Va.: How Long is a splendid song on the album. Can we expect to see a video for "How Long" out soon?

Lionel Richie: You can expect to see a single and a video out. That's gonna come around Christmas. (I like that song too.)

Leechburg, Pa.: Lionel, first off just wanted to say congrats on the new cd, it is truly outstanding. I was wondering what you think about the diversity of fans you have going from people who are older to people such as myself who is a 19 year old who wasn't even around when a good deal of your music was being produced?

Lionel Richie: The word is I'm as happy as I possibly can be. It is the dream of every artist to not only do all age groups but also all nationalities. To be a world artist is the greatest gift of the business. I am loving it.

Chicago, Ill.: Dear Lionel,
I've been anxiously awaiting your new album for a long time. Why did you release the album overseas before in the U.S?

Lionel Richie: I wanted to be in the country when the record was released. I wanted to be in Europe when the record came out there. I wanted to be in America when the record was released. It's so important to be in the country and to be present.

Nashville, Tenn.: The Latino sound is slammin' on Cinderella and even on some of the other songs. And, you have an Asian percussionist, and other cultural mixes in your band. Do you look to use other cultures in your live performance or do you get the best you can find?

Miami, Fla.: Love your music Lionel,

Any plans to release Cinderella with the Backstreet Boys? Also, do you have any plans for a TV Special, like an HBO?

Lionel Richie: Because I travel the world, I'm influenced greatly by the various cultures. In my band, because I travel the world, I love the opportunity of the crowd to be able to see their faces in my band -- their culture.

We're still in negotiations. Stay tuned.

That is definitely in the works.

© Copyright 2001 The Washington Post Company


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