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Lionel Richie: “I’m a hopeless, disgusting romantic”

From “Hello” to “Can’t Slow Down,” four-time Grammy-winning artist and Oscar winner Lionel Richie’s latest recognition is a Kennedy Center Honor.

“You hear about these awards for your entire lifetime,” Richie told “CBS This Morning: Saturday” co-host Alex Wagner. “And then when it finally happens, it’s almost disbelief. … It’s one of those things that will make you walk in the backyard, sit down quietly, and go, how did this happen?”

It happened because of a decade’s worth of massive hits – especially ballads.

“You’ve been called ‘The King of Love Songs.’ My question is, are you a romantic?” Wagner asked.

“I’m a hopeless, disgusting romantic,” Richie said. “I can fall in love in 15 seconds on anything and everybody. … When I walk on stage, I meet the people I’ve never met before … they know me forever. I walk out on stage and they’re my old friends right away.”


Lionel Richie


He said being on stage is “one big, great karaoke night.”

“Because the more I give them to do, the louder they get,” Richie said.

Richie found music growing up in Tuskegee, Alabama. His grandmother, a classical pianist, taught him how to play, though he wasn’t formally trained to write music.

“My grandmother – God bless her – tried her best to teach me how to play. She would show me how to play the piece properly on the piano with the hand movement. And instead of watching the music, I would watch her hands. She would leave and say, ‘Go rehearse and I’ll be back in a moment.’ And I could play by ear – not knowing that that was special,” Richie said. “As soon as she walked away, I wouldn’t play anybody else’s music, I’d only play my stuff – not realizing that that’s called songwriter.”

He took those writing skills to college and joined a band.

“This was a college band, how-can-we-meet-all-the-girls-in-the-dormitory band. You know, it was not supposed to be the career,” Richie said.

That band would become The Commodores.

“Did you ever doubt that you could achieve success?” Wagner asked.

“When you’re 19 to 25, everything is possible,” Richie said. “We’re the black Beatles. We’re The Commodores, and we’re going to take over the world.”

“Did you believe you were the black Beatles?” Wagner asked.

“Yeah, we were the black Beatles. I believed it. I knew it. By the way, not one song. Didn’t have one song,” Richie said, chuckling. “But we were gonna be at – we were the opening act for the Jackson 5, and we’re on our way.”

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