Guest: Lionel Richie
ANNOUNCER: DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT.
DEBORAH NORVILLE, HOST (voice-over): An evening with Lionel Richie.
He is the music man, a Grammy winner and an Oscar winner.
LIONEL RICHIE, SINGER: This is my therapy here and the stage is like my playground.
NORVILLE: Lionel Richie unveils the keys to his success.
RICHIE: The thrill is to me when they say you can‘t do that, Lionel.
That‘s exactly where I go.
NORVILLE: From his early days as a Commodore...
RICHIE: There‘s a history. And some wonderful love there.
NORVILLE: To his 35-year friendship with the King of Pop.
Plus the story of how he helped his daughter Nicole overcome a serious drug problem. She‘s now enjoying “The Simple Life.”
And now he‘s getting ready to hit the road again with a whole new sound.
Tonight, the endless talents of Lionel Richie, for the hour.
RICHIE: The idea here is to make it last for a lifetime.
ANNOUNCER: From Studio 3-K in Rockefeller Center, Deborah Norville.
NORVILLE: Hi, everybody. Good evening.
It was way back in 1967 when six young men met at Alabama‘s Tuskegee Institute met at the campus talent show. They formed an R&B funk and pop group that they called the Commodores.
Over the next 15 years, with megahits like “Brick House,” “Easy” and “Three Times a Lady,” they became superstars.
But it was lead singer and songwriter Lionel Richie who stood out from the group, earning him the lion‘s share of attention.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of the rumors, one of the hot stories in the music business right now is that possibly Lionel Richie is going to split from his old buddies and go off as a single.
RICHIE: If there‘s anything called “Splitsville,” it will probably be in a couple of million years from now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: Well, it was actually just a year after that, in 1982 when Lionel went solo and in more than three decades of music since then, he has had America dancing on the ceiling, selling almost 100 million albums with -- believe it or not -- 22 top 10 hits, five Grammy awards, an Oscar and a Golden Globe.
And now Lionel Richie is back. His long anticipated C.D., called “Just for You” arrived in stores this week, and he thinks it is probably his broadest reaching album to date.
Lionel Richie is here with us tonight. It‘s so nice to see you.
RICHIE: It‘s so nice to see you. I‘ve watching—I‘ve seen your face so many times that now I‘m face to face with you and I feel like an old friend here.
NORVILLE: It‘s likewise because God knows, way back when, the Commodores music, “Brick House” and all that. It was just—it rocked us through a lot of great times.
Why so long between the last album and “Just for You”?
RICHIE: Record companies have gone through so many changes now that I‘ve just kind of watched over the last three to four years how many record companies I‘ve been in, you know?
Are you in Motown? No, I‘m in Motown and I‘m in Mercury, Island, Island-Def Jam, Polygram, Polydor. It‘s been a merging nightmare for an artist. And it‘s a week before everybody kind of settles in. So in the meantime as they started buying the catalogues, what did they want to do? Put out catalogues.
NORVILLE: And they want to put out all of the great songs that they know people are going to...
RICHIE: They know people are going to buy. Exactly. So one day they came to me and they said would you like to do a new album? I said, “I‘ve been waiting around. Thank you very much. The answer is yes.” And so this is it.
NORVILLE: Had you been working on material in that sort of waiting period?
RICHIE: I constantly do it. I mean, I don‘t like to finish the songs, only because once they become old in my head it‘s disaster because you don‘t put them out. So I kind of sketch them out a little bit and not finish the bridge and not do the lyrics. I‘ll do the hook and leave it alone.
But the interesting part about is no matter what I write I go in the studio and the album comes while I‘m in the studio.
NORVILLE: It changes when you‘re in there, right?
NORVILLE: When all the musicians are together, and you guys are just kind of feeling your way through.
RICHIE: There‘s something magical about that studio. Yes. You walk in . And I do it the old fashioned way. I still try to cut it as much as I can live.
And the other part of it is I use the programming just to kind of sketch things out but not to get too locked into it.
NORVILLE: Meaning to go back and listen to it and see how it came together?
RICHIE: Now, with all the—with pro tools and stuff, I mean, you can move vocals around and you can do that for the next 60 years, recording.
I like to go in and kind of take the band and cut it, the old—
That‘s what we did on this album. We tried to make it as—as organic as possible.
NORVILLE: Can I tell you, when I listen to the C.D., because you know, you‘ve had a lot of records over the years, but this one was Lionel Richie. I put it on and it was like, this is the guy that I remember and that I was fond of.
RICHIE: What made this album so great was Lucien Grange—Lucien—out of London, my chairman over there.
He came to me and he said, “Something interesting has happened.” He said, “I just signed five guys all claiming to be the next Lionel Richie.” And he said, “I just thought for a minute I‘ve got Lionel Richie already.
Would you give me a Lionel Richie album?”
And I said, “You mean, you want me to be myself? You don‘t want me to be like anybody else?”
He said, “Absolutely.”
And so it was easy to write this album, because all I had to do was play myself.
Did you feel like there‘s been pressure over the years to—because music has changed. And there was the hip-hop. You even did a rap song at one point.
RICHIE: Listen to me...
NORVILLE: That‘s OK. We don‘t have to go there.
RICHIE: No, no. Exactly right and I think back on it. But you remember now, as we got into this new—I call it the new era of music and the music business, you know, there are two types of artists.
The—I call them the artist that is actually created and the artist that‘s creative. We‘re creative. And they got used to when they had the cookie cutters because all the lawyers bought the industry.
“Can you give me a song like so and so‘s song?” Well, who are you talking to? If you‘re talking to Steve Wonder and Lionel Richie and—I can‘t give you a sang like anybody, because I‘m who I am.
NORVILLE: And yet when I listen to some of the lyrics, I mean even on “Just for You,” there‘s one part as you get into the chorus or whatever you guys call it in the music business, my heart is breaking just for you.
Lionel Richie is going through some personal stuff if you listen to the lyrics.
RICHIE: What‘s so great about this album is—and the roughest thing about this. And I don‘t want to kind of even agree with this, but it‘s true. When you‘re in pain, when‘re going through changes in your life, all of a sudden all of the emotions come right to the surface.
If I‘m having the greatest day of my life you can kind of mask it a little bit. But when pain comes in or indecision or confusion, all of your thoughts are right here in front of you.
And so with me on this album, of course, with the divorce, going through that, and the changes of the business and the changes in my life, what do you to want to write about? I can write it in five seconds. It‘s right in front of me.
NORVILLE: Is it cathartic to do that?
RICHIE: It‘s like...
NORVILLE: Does it help you get a handle on your marriage ending, et cetera, when you put it on paper?
RICHIE: Absolutely. It‘s—If you can imagine the word group therapy, you know, it‘s like I can write a thought down and then exactly six months later I‘ll put it out and someone will walk up to me and go, “Lionel, I felt the same way.” And that means I‘m not the only one going through this.
NORVILLE: It also means that you‘ve contacted emotionally with that listener, and I guess that‘s the ultimate objective, isn‘t it?
RICHIE: Real—real is the best. In other words, if you can find a subject that over the years it‘s—it will never go out of style, if that particular story.
“Easy like Sunday Morning” will never go out of style. “Sail On.” The lines. “All Night Long” will never go out of style because I didn‘t get gimmicky. It‘s a statement.
And of course, this album, “Just for You,” because of what‘s happening not only in my life and what‘s happening in the world, you know.
How I wrote this song in the first place with Paul Barry in London was we were looking at the news one day.
NORVILLE: And what was going on that day?
RICHIE: And what was happening that day was the war in Iraq. And we‘re listening to the explanations of the war, and we‘re listening. And I said, “You know, it‘s so funny. When I was growing up in Alabama there was the thing called truth. The truth and a lie. And now we‘re sitting there in the gray. We‘re accepting the gray now. We‘re not quite sure if it‘s the truth. We‘re not quite sure if it‘s a lie.”
NORVILLE: And you don‘t know who to believe.
RICHIE: And we don‘t know who to blame. Exactly. Which is part of the song.
And the second part of it is, is that when I was growing up in Alabama God, you just throw God‘s name around. You just didn‘t put him in certain groups.
Now he‘s the head of every political party. He endorses every political party and he is the general and reason for every war. So whose side is God on now?
So all of a sudden, I said to myself, “My heart is breaking just for you,” which is actually me, because I‘m...
NORVILLE: You dedicated this album to yourself.
RICHIE: To myself.
NORVILLE: You‘ve often dedicated songs to, you know, this wife or that girl or whatever.
NORVILLE: But this one you said this is for me.
RICHIE: This is for me because this is a turning point in my life.
I‘m too old to say that I‘m innocent. So you can‘t go there.
But at the same time I‘m also in shock, because here I am, of course, dealing with my daughter, looking at her value system and her generation saying that‘s shocking, when my mother and father looked at my generation and said that‘s shocking.
NORVILLE: And isn‘t history in the Richie family repeating itself.? Didn‘t your mom say, “No way is my boy going to go into the music business.” And didn‘t Lionel say to his daughter something similar?
RICHIE: not only that. I said it exactly the same way. I said, “What in the world are you doing wasting your time in the entertainment business? Get a college education and go and get a great job.” Excuse me.
NORVILLE: She‘s doing OK.
RICHIE: She‘s doing OK.
NORVILLE: We‘re going to take a break. We‘re going to come back and talk about the great things going on in your daughter, Nicole‘s life, and also more about Lionel Richie‘s new album. It‘s called “Just for You.” It‘s his first in quite awhile. He‘ll be going on tour this summer.
And we‘ll be back with more with Lionel Richie right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHIE (singing): And truly, you know you‘re all I ever need.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHIE (singing): Hello, is it me you‘re looking for? Cause I wonder where you are, and I wonder what you do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: One of the best things with running old clips is to watch the reaction to the hair.
RICHIE: I‘m sitting there cringing because I actually took time to make sure it looked really good.
NORVILLE: That was the look you were going for then?
RICHIE: You would follow me, and I actually now am sitting there, as it comes on I‘m cringing going, “Oh, my God. What was I thinking about?”
NORVILLE: Back with Lionel Richie, whose new album is called “Just for You.” It just hit the stores on Wednesday. So—so you can definitely find lots of them out there right now.
One of the songs on the record that, when I was listening to it, and I‘ve listened to it over and over again. I was at the dentist. And it really was very...
RICHIE: Did I get you through it?
NORVILLE: You got me through it.
NORVILLE: You got me through it. It was not—it was not my favorite thing to do.
But I listened to the C.D. over and over again. And there‘s one song that I want to play. And then ask you if it doesn‘t, to you, sound a little bit like somebody else who‘s a big musical star.
The track is “Do ya.”
NORVILLE: You know what I‘m thinking.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
RICHIE (singing): Do you? You know she‘s got no. She‘s got to do you. She loves me more than you. You know, she wants me.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
NORVILLE: Keep it going. It‘s coming.
RICHIE: That‘s really good.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
RICHIE: She wants me. She wants me. And I know that she wants me.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
NORVILLE: OK. They didn‘t—I don‘t think they have it. But there‘s a “Woo-woo” in there.
RICHIE: Yes. Yes.
NORVILLE: That sounds just like somebody who can do a moonwalk.
RICHIE: Yes. So let me tell you about this, all right? The research that I‘m getting from this, I call myself—everyone is talking about the old school so I decided on this record instead of writing with Lionel Richie and doing the old school let me write with the new school. Let me go out and do a little research, writing with the new school.
NORVILLE: The people who are working with the new artists and making the hits today.
RICHIE: Right now. The hit makers of today.
RICHIE: Because I wanted to put the blend together and see what the old school and new school is all about.
What‘s interesting is the old sound is the new sound. I went to Daniel Beddingfeld, who I did this song with, and I said, “Daniel, what kind of song do you want to write?”
And he looked at me and said, “Let‘s write a Commodores song.”
And I said, “Well, I could do that—I don‘t need that...”
NORVILLE: I did that already.
RICHIE: “Let‘s do something else.”
So he said, “What about Stevie Wonder or Michael Jackson?”
And I realized, “Oh, my God. This guy has studied the old school. And there‘s nothing I could do—what is he coming? He‘s coming from all of those wonderful songs, and he wants to now do, like, one kind of like that with me.”
And you‘re right, he hit that little Michael Jackson lick and I said, “That‘s Michael Jackson.”
And he said, “No, man, I just love that lick.”
“That‘s Michael Jackson.” Exactly right.
NORVILLE: Did you hesitate to put it in?
RICHIE: No, no. Not at all. Well, you know, it‘s true to his generation. You have to understand something here. I mean, if you look at Usher...
NORVILLE: Because you‘ve got to make music for the guys who are buying records.
RICHIE: If you look at all the—Alicia Keys. You look at the—or Norah Jones, that‘s Roberta Flack. Isn‘t that Roberta Flack singing there?
You know, if you look at what‘s happening—Outkast. Outkast could be any group that we had back in the day: Earth, Wind and Fire, a little bit of Commodores there.
NORVILLE: Brothers Johnson.
RICHIE: Brothers Johnson, exactly right.
So, when you saw Michael Jackson and Prince, that was James Brown or Jackie Wilson. You find what I‘m saying?
NORVILLE: Isn‘t it weird that you‘ve kind of lapped yourself musically, that you‘ve come back full circle?
RICHIE: I‘m laughing. You want to hear the funny story, right? I‘m sitting there in the studio and I said, “I‘m looking for a drum sound. I‘m looking for a drum sound.”
And the guy came down the hall and said, “Here‘s your drum sound.”
And I heard it, and I said, “That‘s perfect,” because he looped one for me. And I said, “Where did you get that drum sound from?”
He said, “A Commodore album.” He sold me my drums.
NORVILLE: He gave you your old stuff back.
RICHIE: He sold the Commodores back to me one more time. And that‘s where we are now.
NORVILLE: Tell me about Michael Jackson. You‘ve been friends with him when you were with the Commodores.
RICHIE: Right. Yes.
NORVILLE: You guys toured with the Jackson Five. What do you think about everything that‘s going on in his life now?
RICHIE: I‘m a little worried about him in the fact that, you know, fame is an interesting animal. You can rehearse for everything, but fame is—can destroy you because there‘s no course that you can take to say I‘m prepared for it.
In Michael‘s case I met him when he was 6 years old.
RICHIE: Where he was in the studio every day. They would take him to school and right after school take him right to the studio. He didn‘t have a play period.
So when I say to him, “Michael, will you please—it‘s time for you to grow up and let‘s get real.” Well, he...
NORVILLE: He didn‘t know what that was.
RICHIE: He is being real. We didn‘t go to school together, but I can say the following things. Pep rally, bonfire, basketball game, football game. And you‘ll say, “Yes?” Because we had those experiences. He didn‘t.
So you‘re experiencing now a guy at 45-some-old years old now. I love saying that, 45 years old. Thank you, Michael Jackson. I love that. Oh, my God.
But I love it now, here‘s a guy 45 years old who‘s trying to relive his childhood. Well...
NORVILLE: These are serious allegations.
RICHIE: They are beyond serious allegations. So what‘s happening right now is I told him I don‘t care if he ever puts out another hit record in life. I don‘t care. What I do care about is that he survives his fame. He‘s got to get over this. In other words.
NORVILLE: Just start being a person.
RICHIE: Just get over it. Take—Let‘s get the jacket off. Let‘s get the shoes off and the socks. Let‘s forget the socks and the gloves. I don‘t want to see that anymore.
I want you to be so real because he‘s got to survive this. And if he doesn‘t, this is going to be the worst thing that could have ever happened to him in life.
NORVILLE: You know, it‘s funny. Walter Yetnikoff, the former CBS records head, was on this program and said something very similar.
He had almost a father-son relationship with Michael during those days, and he said Michael needs to just put all of the fame stuff aside. But can he do it?
RICHIE: That‘s going to be the test. That‘s why I said to you before, I‘m not worried about his performing side. I‘m worried about his Michael Jackson side, the personal side. And can he reach that?
NORVILLE: Have you spoken to him? I know he‘s Nicole‘s godfather.
NORVILLE: So you guys truly are very close.
RICHIE: We are very close and we‘ve known each other and we have spoken. He sounds in great spirits.
I mean, I‘m not so much worried about that. But is he up for the challenge? This is going to be a challenge for him. This is going to be really something—Because it‘s coming straight down, not only press...
NORVILLE: Come on, it‘s literally—He‘s looking at years and years in jail.
RICHIE: We‘re going into legalities now. This is not going to be washing the table. Can he survive this? I don‘t—I mean, I‘m telling you, this is going to be a rough one and he can‘t call it. I don‘t believe anybody else can call it.
On a totally different issue but certainly equally stressful for you was when your daughter Nicole was picked up with the heroin possession charge. How did that happen? I mean, you‘ve come in the music business. You certainly have seen the drug stuff back and forth.
RICHIE: You know, it‘s funny. When I was growing up, my father started giving me advice. And “Son, let me tell you, I don‘t want to you make the same mistakes that I did. So let me tell you about this.”
And I did the exact—everything—it‘s funny about a kid. You can go to any room in the house, just don‘t go through that door right there.
NORVILLE: What was this day like when Nicole was appearing in court?
RICHIE: To me, it was actually a great wake-up call for her. I know this may sound terrible, but I was glad it happened. Because I could no longer buffer her anymore. And I wanted her to have a real life experience.
Could I have made it kind of—not go away bit a little bit less in the public eye, take the edge off? Yes, I could.
NORVILLE: So you went with the tough love?
RICHIE: I remember my father one day, I got stopped for speeding.
And he didn‘t come down to pick me up right away. You understand me? That little half an hour sitting there in the cell was like all I needed as a wake-up call.
RICHIE: For Nicole, she left out of that courtroom, and I could see in her face there was going to be a change.
NORVILLE: What did she say to you?
RICHIE: She said, “I don‘t want to do that again.”
And I said, “So what are you going to do about it?”
And she said, “I need some help.”
And I said, “I‘m very happy to hear that.”
Then, here are the great words: “Can you help me, Dad and Mom?”
NORVILLE: We‘re there for you.
And you and Brenda, your first wife, Nicole‘s mom did something really extraordinary. You went to rehab with her.
RICHIE: We checked in. We checked in with her, which is interesting, because I wanted her to understand that this is not her problem alone. This is a family problem.
And regardless of the fame and the fortune we were going to go in as a family, and we were going to try to recover as a family. And of course, she did a great job.
We—I learned so much about myself. I thought I was there to save me—I mean save her, and I was there to save me. Because as parents and as loved ones we are sitting there thinking we‘re the ones that are to going to go and save them but how do we survive ourselves through this?
NORVILLE: It was bigger than all of you?
RICHIE: Bigger than all of us.
NORVILLE: What did you learn? What one thing that has helped you as a father?
NORVILLE: As a loved one?
RICHIE: You know, what we always do sometimes is we try to go in and we say, “I know what‘s happening.” No, we don‘t know what‘s happening.
And we‘re facilitators. We go in and make excuses for them.
“She looks a lot better today, doesn‘t she?”
“No, she‘s still on it.”
NORVILLE: It‘s still there.
RICHIE: Yes, she‘s still on. But she wasn‘t on heroin. Believe it or not, she wasn‘t—I found it out. She wasn‘t on—She just happened to have that in the car that she was driving. It wasn‘t hers. That was the joke.—it wasn‘t a joke. That was the story.
RICHIE: Her thing was pain pills. She was on Xanax and stuff like that. That was her.
NORVILLE: That‘s so sad, a 22-year-old kid taking pain pills.
RICHIE: Let me tell you something, I know this may sound strange, but I was so glad it wasn‘t heroin. I was so glad. I know if I had to pick one I said OK because once I found out, “You‘re not doing heroin, are you?”
Once I found that out the rest was...
NORVILLE: Easier to deal with.
RICHIE: Easier to deal with, you know. And it was a little bit more of a sigh of relief, as a parent.
But what did my father say to me years ago? “One day you‘ll have a child, and you‘ll get yours back.”
NORVILLE: Coming back at you.
RICHIE: It‘s coming back. And then Nicole taught me a great lesson about parenting.
NORVILLE: And she‘s had a great run since then. I mean, “The Simple Life.” Who‘d have thunk it? She and Nicole—she and Paris Hilton have been friends since they were little girls.
RICHIE: Preschool, elementary school, high school. And the joke is that they actually put a show around their every day living.
NORVILLE: Are they really this ditzy?
RICHIE: They are not only ditzy. Crazy is the word. And every little joke that you see them playing, God bless the parents of the Hilton family and the Richies, because we survive their antics on a daily basis.
You know, we don‘t know what they‘re going to do from one day to the next. And I had to develop a sense of humor about them. And once I found out that they‘re just winding us up. They‘re just -- of course they‘re doing what they‘re supposed to do. They‘re teenagers.
NORVILLE: It‘s like my kids said once. I said, “Why do you annoy me all the time?”
And they said, “Mom, I‘m a kid. It‘s my job.”
RICHIE: It‘s my job. And believe it or not, what did I do—what did you do with your parents? We annoyed the heck out of them. Are you kidding me?
And they couldn‘t understand us. And when I brought home these—these—I want to give you—Jimi Hendrix albums and stuff, “What is that noise that you‘re playing?”
And, “Excuse me, that‘s the greatest music in the world, Mom. What are you talking about?” And they didn‘t understand what we‘re talking about.
And of course, when I had my afro, give me a break.
NORVILLE: We are going to take a break. More with Lionel Richie when we come back.
We‘re going to take a look at his greatest hits and his hopes. Believe it or not, Lionel Richie‘s music may be coming to Broadway. We‘ll explain in a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHIE (singing): You‘re once. You‘re twice, three times a lady.
And I love you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: Welcome back.
I‘m here with Lionel Richie. He‘s got a new CD. He‘s starting a new tour and he‘s with me for the full hour and that was the Oscar-winning song “Say you say me.”
RICHIE: Taylor Hackford came to me and said could you do a song called “White Nights” and I said I don‘t think so. I don‘t think so. And, then I said can you give me a shot at another title for the song and he said yes and “Say you say me” came in and the winner is Lionel Richie on it, you know.
NORVILLE: What is that like to hear your name and go marching up and get an Oscar?
RICHIE: You know what it was. It was an out of body experience because, first of all, it was Gene Kelly that said and the winner is. And, as I‘m walking up, Gene Kelly is holding the big gold man and it was surreal.
NORVILLE: Were your parents there?
RICHIE: My mom and—my mom was there. My dad was watching from Alabama and, what did my father say that was so great? He was driving around Tuskegee and he said, you know, son the greatest thing I ever did was named you junior.
NORVILLE: That‘s great.
RICHIE: Because, you know, as far as he was concerned Lionel Richie had picked up an Oscar, you know, and my mother went with me to the Oscars and I turned around to tell my mom Lionel Richie won because, you know, because when—there‘s so much pressure you could cut it with a knife. And she said will you go up there before they change their mind?
NORVILLE: Oh, that is so cute, just like a mom isn‘t it?
RICHIE: You know, it‘s so southern but it was so great and I went up.
It was a highlight, one of the highlights of my life.
NORVILLE: Another one has to be the Los Angeles Olympics closing ceremonies.
NORVILLE: Two point six.
RICHIE: Two point six billion people live and it didn‘t dawn on me how huge it was until, I mean I finished the show. I got in the car. I drove away. The next morning I got up and went to the studio like any other day and it was like a parade. I was Lionel Richie all night long. Lionel Richie all night long.
NORVILLE: That‘s great.
RICHIE: You know and it‘s—it‘s been that way ever since.
NORVILLE: You were also a part of that incredible song that did so much for famine relief “We are the World.” And, you know, when you look at the video, and I think we‘re going to run a little bit of it, and you see you standing next to Kenny Rogers with every other, you know, major singer that was doing anything at that point in time, did you all realize what an impact that was going to have?
RICHIE: I think the interesting thing that happened was when it came out, to answer your question, not to that degree.
NORVILLE: Seventy million dollars for famine relief.
RICHIE: Michael called me on the phone and said, I love how he says it, Lionel, and we turned on the TV and there was London, L.A., New York, Japan and they showed different clips of them singing “We are the World” in all the countries, in Australia. We had no idea that it was going to be to this degree.
I just finished doing a little thing for my daughter‘s school. She‘s five years old. They sang “We are the World” to me. I mean five years old. The next generation, you know. Here we are again but I‘m very proud of that song.
NORVILLE: And there is also a song on your new album called “One World” that almost seems like a sequel to that anthem.
RICHIE: And surprisingly enough they called and said they want “One World” to be for the closing of the Olympics, so here we are, what is that 1984 to 2004, 20 years later we‘re talking about doing the closing of the Olympics again with another song, how about that?
NORVILLE: That‘s great. Life is good for Lionel Richie.
RICHIE: Life is good.
NORVILLE: And life is good for us because he‘s not going away. We‘ll take a break.
When we come back we just might be able to convince him to pull out the piano, pull out the piano.
RICHIE: Pull out the piano, did you say that?
NORVILLE: We‘ve got one over here anyway. We‘re going to be right back.
NORVILLE: We‘re spending the hour with Lionel Richie. His new CD is just out. It‘s called “Just for you,” and “Hello” has got to be one of the ones that you get requested more and more than any of the others.
RICHIE: I can‘t—I can‘t—I can‘t remember when “Hello” was not in my life, you know. It‘s been around that long and in every country, in every part of the world, hello, hello Lionel Richie.
NORVILLE: Even though that‘s all they can say in English.
RICHIE: Believe it or not I‘ve had people say to me the songs, they learned English on my songs, hello is it me you‘re looking for, “All Night Long,” “Truly” and they learned the lyrics.
What‘s happening now is that when I do a concert I‘ll be in Germany or I‘ll be in Southeast Asia somewhere, it doesn‘t matter, they will sing every word in English.
NORVILLE: Does that bother you that people are singing while you‘re up there singing?
RICHIE: Not at all. Actually, I can stop at any moment in the show and they take over.
NORVILLE: And they‘ll keep going.
RICHIE: And they love it when I stop singing. It‘s almost like a huge karaoke night but they love it when I‘m not singing.
NORVILLE: I think one of the turning points when I was reading up on you in your career was when you wrote “Lady.”
NORVILLE: For Kenny Rogers. That really launched you in a major way.
RICHIE: I wrote the song, actually it was called “Lady.”
NORVILLE: Play it. It‘s so pretty.
RICHIE: Actually, believe it or not you would joke about this. I was just trying to play it a few minutes ago. I‘ve forgotten how to—I‘m sitting over and—it has been so long because it‘s not—it‘s not something I play.
NORVILLE: It‘s not where you are?
RICHIE: It‘s not where—no it‘s not that it‘s even farther than that. I played it in the recording session and I went to play it now and I said, my God, how do you play “Lady.” Of course I was going to practice a little bit in between and I realized maybe the next segment we‘ll do this. I play it now in the show. I sing it now in the show when I don‘t play it.
RICHIE: But when I did it for the Commodores, the Commodores said we don‘t want to do a song this time around. I did “Jesus is Love.” And, it was a gospel song in the place of a regular ballad and I gave the song to Kenny Rogers and 18 million copies...
NORVILLE: There‘s Kenny and Mary Ann (ph).
RICHIE: Eighteen million copies later.
NORVILLE: That‘s pretty good.
RICHIE: It was off the Richter scale and I love it. Just to show you the impact of that song I cannot tell you how many people—there was a lady that called me up in Beverly Hills and she said, Lionel turn on the television. There‘s a group called the Commanders. There‘s a guy who‘s the lead singer could be your brother.
NORVILLE: Oh, how funny.
RICHIE: She thought my career started with Kenny Rogers.
NORVILLE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and Kenny Rogers.
RICHIE: That‘s exactly right.
NORVILLE: Whoa, that‘s so amazing.
RICHIE: That‘s to show you the...
NORVILLE: Talk about something else going off the Richter scale was “Endless Love.”
RICHIE: Hey, I can play that. Thank you very much.
NORVILLE: That one is gorgeous.
(RICHIE SINGING “ENDLESS LOVE”)
RICHIE: That was an amazing...
NORVILLE: That is so beautiful.
RICHIE: That was an amazing time.
NORVILLE: Where were you life wise when you wrote that?
RICHIE: I was in—I didn‘t realize it. I can say it now. I was in my transition period. I didn‘t consider leaving the Commodores. It was not on my mind the day I wrote “Lady” and “Endless Love.”
What I was trying to do was bring more focus to the Commodores and myself by writing outside of the Commodores because that was as a songwriter we can get more recognition.
The interesting part about it was the press took it and went one step further. What they said was, and here‘s some of the reviews, what‘s a guy like Lionel Richie doing in a band like the Commodores? Now try to go back to rehearsal after that.
NORVILLE: Hi, guys.
RICHIE: Or, here‘s another thing. We‘re now playing the concert and the reviewer says finally Lionel Richie takes to the piano and plays his records, his songs, his songs. Not a good idea. And so the press started getting to the point where the guys were feeling a little bit uptight because this guy Lionel is messing up the group.
NORVILLE: Would another song in that category be “Three Times a Lady”?
RICHIE: Yes. Well, actually “Three Times a Lady” was early, much earlier than that but what it did was—what it did was it changed the title, the Commodores, the funk band to this ballad group.
(RICHIE SINGS “THREE TIMES A LADY”)
RICHIE: It got to the point where the Commodores changed because we went from “Three Times a Lady”—
NORVILLE: The music was changing too.
RICHIE: Yes, but you have to understand this was not R&B.
NORVILLE: Definitely not.
RICHIE: And, of course, after that came I want to say “Still.”
(RICHIE SINGS “STILL”)
RICHIE: Now where are we going now? The Commodores are slowing down.
It was not—it was the best and worst of times.
RICHIE: Because the Commodores now were becoming the songs along with...
NORVILLE: “Sunday Morning.”
RICHIE: Easy like.
(RICHIE SINGS “SUNDAY MORNING”)
RICHIE: It started changing the fiber of where the Commodores were going.
NORVILLE: And yet the music lives on and this music may be coming to Broadway. Taking a page from “Mama Mia,” taking a page from “Smoky Joe‘s Cafe,” you‘re looking at your catalog to come up with a way to tell the story on Broadway.
RICHIE: There‘s a story to be told on Broadway and it was brought to me—a great Broadway guy came to me and said, you know what, there‘s an entire Broadway musical sitting there for Lionel Richie. Let‘s work on a storyline and get songs like...
RICHIE: Let‘s get some of this because it‘s country. It‘s a little bit country. It‘s a little bit R&B there. It‘s a little bit pop. It‘s an experience of people have grown up with these songs. Let‘s bring it to Broadway.
NORVILLE: We‘re going to follow up more with Lionel Richie, take a short break. We‘ll be right back.
(VIDEO CLIP OF LIONEL RICHIE)
NORVILLE: That was “Ballerina.” You wrote that one for Nicole, didn‘t you?
RICHIE: For Nicole, and she never lets me forget that by the way.
NORVILLE: Oh, it‘s great.
RICHIE: Yes, I would go to her little ballet classes, if you can imagine Nicole in ballet classes. I look at her now and go nah.
NORVILLE: Waste of money.
RICHIE: Waste of money. But believe it or not I would go and I came home and just writing that song was just her song.
NORVILLE: We should note that all the video clips we‘ve seen come from the new Lionel Richie DVD which is available for purchase and it‘s just great to be able to see the old songs and see the old hairstyles.
RICHIE: And I‘m going to say to see the old outfits, you know.
NORVILLE: And the old outfits too.
RICHIE: Oh, my God.
NORVILLE: We should note the divorce that we talked about in the beginning it‘s final now for you?
RICHIE: It will be in about probably another month or so but it‘s all done.
NORVILLE: Are you OK? I mean there was so much publicity. There‘s so much personal information that came out there.
RICHIE: I guess I‘ve been in public life long enough now to where I‘m kind of—I‘m not comfortable with it because I was born and raised in the south. You understand what I‘m saying. In the south, we don‘t talk too much about our personal business.
RICHIE: But in show business I‘ve gotten to the point now where it‘s just kind of public. It‘s out there. It‘s done. It‘s over. But I‘m OK and we‘re okay. Diane is fine, you know. I think she got some very bad advice and remember now that I‘m learning about people that are not in the business.
I know how to handle an interview. I know how to handle the hits of maybe good press, bad press, good reviews, bad reviews.
RICHIE: But then when it‘s talking about your mother, your father, your sister, your wife, your kids, they don‘t know anything about it, so they‘ll take advice from people not realizing that they‘re also famous. They‘re the wife...
NORVILLE: But they didn‘t choose it and that‘s the big difference.
RICHIE: They didn‘t choose it and so when they take this advice sometimes it goes straight to press instead of thinking it‘s going to be private.
NORVILLE: I‘m glad you‘re through it. I‘m glad everybody is OK. You know when people heard you were going to be on the show we got inundated with e-mail. So, if you don‘t mind, I just want to throw a couple of questions. They‘re all nice.
NORVILLE: Todd from North Carolina wrote and said: “As host of the Motown 45” special, which is going to be on this weekend...
RICHIE: Exactly right.
NORVILLE: ... “did you all have any conversations about a Commodores‘ reunion?”
RICHIE: You know what was so interesting about that when the Commodores came to perform they wanted them to do “Night Shift” and so I‘m sitting there watching them rehearse “Night Shift” and they‘re sitting there watching me do “All Night Long” and we fell out laughing. The answer was what are you doing over there?
NORVILLE: That was weird.
RICHIE: That was weird and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) looked at me and said they‘re your boys and I said, yes. And so finally when they finished we looked over at each other and said, you know what we have to do, right? And they said absolutely. So, it took the Motown 45 to kind of bring us to the realization that that reunion is right around the corner. I can almost tell you that.
NORVILLE: Oh, I think a lot of people are excited to hear that.
RICHIE: I can tell you that now. That was a very good thing that happened at the Motown 45.
NORVILLE: So, when people are watching the show they‘ll know about the back story that‘s going on too.
RICHIE: The back story that‘s going on, yes.
NORVILLE: Another e-mail, Kathy wrote. She said: “You‘ve got masses of huge fans international but isn‘t there some way that loyal USA fans can have access to one large USA event or concert”?
RICHIE: The answer is yes. It‘s coming. It‘s coming. The announcement was it‘s coming soon because we were going to do a warm-up tour of the world. I love how I say that, a warm-up tour and then the big tour and then we put tickets on sale in Europe and they went out in three or four days completely.
And so we decided from there enough of that. We‘re going to do the world tour now big time, so we‘re rethinking it and on lionelrichie.com you‘ll get all the information. I love how I said that and on top of all of that they‘re talking about some huge television network thing.
NORVILLE: Oh, that‘s great. You know the amazing thing is, Lionel, you don‘t have to do anything else. You could sit back and chill. But I know every time as you‘ve been sitting here in the breaks you start composing.
RICHIE: I know.
NORVILLE: It really is, music is your mistress.
RICHIE: You were asking me—you were asking me you said now what‘s that and I go that‘s new.
NORVILLE: That‘s new.
RICHIE: But the beautiful part about it is, is that it‘s still something I like to do.
NORVILLE: Well, we love to listen to you. Will you play a little bit as we thank you so much, wish you well.
NORVILLE: The new album is called “Just for You,” Lionel Richie.
(LIONEL RICHIE SINGS “SAY YOU SAY ME”)
NORVILLE: In this week‘s “American Moment” that daring escape by Thomas Hamill the American hostage who fled his Iraqi captors. Hamill, a dairy farmer from Macon, Mississippi took a job in Iraq as a truck driver to help pay off debts at home. He was kidnapped April 9 when the convoy he was riding in was ambushed.
He was shot in the arm during the ambush and the next day a video was released showing Hamill in front of an Iraqi flag. His captors threatened to kill him if U.S. troops didn‘t withdraw from Fallujah. That was the last time anyone saw Hamill for three weeks.
Then came word last Sunday that Hamill escaped from the mud farmhouse where he was being held, ran a half a mile to a passing American military convoy yelling I‘m an American. A little while later he called his wife home.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLIE HAMILL: Are you OK, Tommy? Don‘t worry it‘s over baby.
Momma‘s fine. The kids are OK.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don‘t worry about us.
HAMILL: Tommy, I love you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: Hamill was taken to an American military facility in Germany. Thomas Hamill celebrated his 44th birthday Thursday. He‘s now a free man and his story is this week‘s “American Moment.”
Thanks for watching. I‘m Deborah Norville.
On Monday, Senator John McCain will be with us.
And coming up next, National Geographic‘s “ULTIMATE EXPLORER” with Lisa Ling. Thanks for watching. We‘ll see you on Monday.
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2004 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2004 FDCH e-Media, Inc. (f/k/a/ Federal Document Clearing House Inc., eMediaMillWorks, Inc.), ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and FDCH e-Media, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.