Lionel Richie has one of the most beloved bodies of work by all musicians. So when one of his lifelong admirers, Lenny Kravitz, inducted the Commodore into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Kravitz tried to convey who Richie is when the world isn’t watching.
Years ago, Richie visited Kravitz at his Miami home for a jam session. It was their first meeting. Kravitz was anxious — which is, honestly, hard to imagine — and wanted everything to be perfect. Just as they were getting into a groove, his 93-year-old grandfather who lived with him entered the living room, asking the world-class musicians to “take their noise somewhere else”. Kravitz was mortified. But Richie handled it with grace.
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“It’s Lionel Richie. Respectful. Warm. And, above all, humble,” Kravitz said. “He remained that house brother from Tuskegee, Alabama. The man does not have a pretentious bone in his body.
Kravitz applauded Richie’s “beautifully diverse” collection of songs. As a fan, Kravitz knew he didn’t have to go into detail. He simply listed the song titles and at each one the audience erupted in delight. “His songs are the soundtrack to my life, your life, and everyone’s life,” Kravitz said. “Lionel’s songbook is rich and beautifully diverse. To name all of his brilliant songs, it would take, well, “All Night Long.”
Earlier this year, Rolling Stone spoke with Richie following the announcement of his Hall of Fame induction. “It will probably be one of the most beautiful evenings because I can now appreciate this period of my life,” he said. “Normally we’re so busy trying to survive that you don’t really enjoy the moment. It’s going to be a night where I sit down with all my friends and peers and just enjoy it.
Read Lenny Kravitz’s full speech inducting Lionel Richie into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
First of all, I would like to say that it is a blessing that we can all be here tonight to celebrate life and music together. And I’m honored to be here tonight to induct Lionel Richie into Rock & Roll and Fame.
Lionel and I met about 25 years ago and since then he has been like a big brother. Let me tell you about the first time we met and how I got to know him. Lionel and I wanted to write together so when he was in Miami, where I was living at the time, he came to my house for a session. I was completely blown away. I was going to work with one of my musical heroes. I wanted everything to be perfect. I set up a portable studio in the kitchen and as soon as he arrived we started jamming. As our ideas began to flow, my 93-year-old grandfather, Albert Roker, came in and turned on the television to watch a heavyweight fight he was expecting.
Just as we were figuring out the chorus, Grandpa turned around and said, “Hey, guys, would you mind taking that noise somewhere else?” I froze. I looked at Lionel, Lionel looked at me, then I looked at my grandfather and I wanted to say: “Grandfather, I write with Lionel fucking Richie!” OK. First of all, I would never talk to my grandfather like that. Second, if I had, he would have kicked my ass right in front of him. [Unintelligible.] It was then that Lionel stepped in and said, “Yes sir, Mr. Roker. We’re going to leave you right away, we’re going to change rooms.
It’s Lionel Richie. Respectful. Warm. And above all humble. He remained that house brother from Tuskegee, Alabama. The man does not have a pretentious bone in his body. Lionel is also the funniest person I have ever met. I never laugh as hard as when I’m with him. It’s the kind of laughter that comes from the soul. When Lionel arrives, everyone is happy.
As a singer-songwriter, producer and performer, he is at the pinnacle of musical icons. If the history of what we loosely call rock and roll is ever written forever, Lionel will command a major chapter of his own. As Commodore he was sensational, only to surpass himself as a solo artist. His music has lit up the lives of millions of fans. And his influence on artists like me, who followed him, is pervasive and profound.
Lionel’s legacy is rock solid. And while I think Lionel ranks in the highest category of creative artists, there is one segment of his art that deserves special praise. His songs. His songs are the soundtrack of my life, your life and everyone’s life. Lionel’s songbook is rich and beautifully diverse. To name all of his brilliant songs, it would take, well, “All Night Long.”
He is the man who built this famous “Brick House”. “Still.” “Three times a lady.” “Sail on.” “Just to be near you.” “Jesus is love.” “Zoom.” “Easy.” “Hello.” “You are.” “Really.” “Lady.” “Everlasting love.” “Tell you, tell me.” “Run with the night.” “Stuck to you.” “Penny lover.” “Love will find a way.” Hymn after hymn after hymn. I tell you like this.
With Michael Jackson, Lionel composed one of the most monumental songs in the history of music, “We Are the World”, produced by Quincy Jones, which brought together the greatest artists to contribute to the fight against famine in Africa. It was an extraordinary act of love. But, of course, Lionel Richie is in love. Love personified. Love projected onto everyone and everything they touch; the love embodied in his acts of kindness, compassion and caring.
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