Whether as a solo artist or with his group the Commodores, Lionel Richie belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Came along too late? The RRHOF has been very kind to Motown artists, with the Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Supremes, Jackson Five, Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, and Martha and the Vandellas just a few of the Motown acts already inducted. However, these acts all recorded for Motown and its subsidiary labels during the heyday of Motown, from 1960-75. The Commodores and Richie as a solo act produced their biggest hits after Motown’s glory years. This may be harming their chances of making the Hall because there has been an emphasis on honoring Motown acts who represent the golden age of that company.
Commodores and Richie wrote excellent songs. Many successful Motown artists relied on the songwriting talents of Holland, Dozier, Holland; Barrett Strong; and Norman Whitfield, among others. The members of the Commodores, however, wrote their own material and did so quite well. “Three Times A Lady,” is one of the best ballads ever composed, and it reached number one on the “Billboard Hot 100” chart despite being released in 1978 during the height of the disco era. Richie also penned “Endless Love,” a duet he sung with Diana Ross that topped the singles chart for nine weeks in 1981 and became Motown’s biggest selling single up to that point. He also co-wrote “We Are the World,” a number one song from 1985 that was performed by an all-star cast and helped raise money for famine relief in Africa. Richie also wrote the number one smash hit “Lady” for Kenny Rogers. Richie wrote at least one number one hit for eight consecutive years, from 1978-85.
Funk/soul group. In addition to having a Motown pop sound, the Commodores were a funk/soul band along the lines of Earth, Wind and Fire. The Commodores were one of the very best at this genre that has long been recognized as one of the sub-branches of rock and roll.
Numbers don’t lie. Lionel Richie and the Commodores rank high as worldwide best-selling singles and album artists. According to “The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits,” the Commodores had 17 singles reach the top 40, ten enter the top 10, with “Three Times A Lady” and “Still” topping the chart. Independent on the Commodores, Richie had 16 top 40 singles, with the first 13 cracking the top 10. “Endless Love,” “Truly,” “All Night Long,” “Hello,” and “Say You, Say Me,” all reached number one. Richie and the Commodores also did nearly as well on the U.K. chart. They sold over 100 million records globally, sold-out concert halls and tours, and won Grammy awards for their efforts. Lionel Richie was arguably the top male artist of the 1980s with the possible exceptions of Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen and Prince.
Range of brilliance. Richie In particular showed great versatility in his music. He is a member of the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame and with the Commodores was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame. He explored funk, pop ballads, country, soul, rock and gospel and did so seamlessly and with great aplomb.
Excellence should be rewarded. The Commodores and Lionel Richie created a great catalog of excellent material. They worked in areas (the Motown sound and funk) that have long been accepted as fertile grounds for the RRHOF. As of 2013 they are still awaiting their first nomination. The RRHOF should not only nominate this tremendous soul band and great solo artist but should elect them as well.
“The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 9th Edition,” Joel Whitburn, Billboard Books, 2010
“The Billboard Book of Number One Hits, 5th Edition,” Fred Bronson, Billboard Books, 2003