Lionel Richie turns 75: How “Hello” turned his life upside down

Lionel Richie turns 75: How “Hello” turned his life upside down
Lionel Richie turns 75: How “Hello” turned his life upside down

Lionel Richie has written countless hits, but no song haunts him like “Hello”. On June 20, the superstar turns 75.

It is certainly no exaggeration to describe Lionel Richie (75) as a living music legend and one of the greatest hit machines of all time. Anyone who has sold around 100 million albums in his life and placed 22 hits in the top 10 of the charts can confidently pin this medal on his glitter jacket. However, these impressive statistics do not even include the countless mega hits that he sent out into the world with his former band The Commodores.

With the mega hit “Hello” into immortality

With ballads like “Say You, Say Me”, “Penny Lover” and “Stuck on You” he is still a regular guest on radio stations all over the world, as well as with feel-good party hits like “Dancing on the Ceiling” and “All Night Long”. However, his most iconic hit, with which he finally made himself immortal, is the melancholic pop ballad “Hello”, which he released in 1983 on his album “Can’t Slow Down” and in 1984 with resounding success as a single.

In an interview with the magazine “GQ”, the singer, who was born on June 20, 1949 in Tuskegee, Alabama, reported on the absurd problems that keep coming with the fact that he has basically taken over the word “Hello” with his global hit. This fact leads to great insecurities in many people he meets, even when greeting them. “It’s so sweet because people say it first and then apologize,” he reported amusedly. “They say: ‘Hello, Mr. Richie! I mean… I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to say hello…'” And he added: “I then say: No, no, hello is the right word.”

“Hello – is it tea you’re looking for?”

The fact that his song with the iconic chorus “Hello – is it me you’re looking for?” is still an absolute cult classic today is proven not least by the countless memes in which the line of text is used in combination with his likeness in ever new variations. A few years ago he recorded an entertaining video for the “Kelly Clarkson Show” in which he commented on a selection of these “Hello memes”. One of them shows him with a biscuit afro on his head, combined with the words “Hello – is it tea you’re looking for?”.

“Hello Park” in Richie’s birthplace

It will probably never be completely clear how many couples Lionel Richie brought together with his musical mega-sappy song at the dance parties of the 1980s. But there is no doubt that the song contributed a lot to international communication.

In April of this year, just a few weeks before his 75th birthday today, the singer presented a project close to his heart on Instagram with which he created a monumental memorial to the song – and of course to himself – in his birthplace. There he wrote: “I proudly present ‘HELLO PARK’, a labor of love that stands in the place where it all began – my parents’ house in Tuskegee, Alabama, right outside the gates of Tuskegee University.”

Next to these words, he placed an architectural model of this extraordinary open-air meeting place, an idyllic park with numerous seating areas where the residents of the small town can gather for conversations and romantic tête-à-têtes. In his speech at the ceremonial opening of this park on April 18, Richie said: “I thought ‘Hello Park’ would be the perfect destination for people to come and realize that you can start in a very small town and end up influencing the whole world.”

Last album: Greatest Hits as country versions

At the age of 75, the singer is no longer aiming to conquer the charts with more global hits. He hasn’t released an album for over twelve years. On his latest record, called “Tuskegee,” he re-recorded many of his old hits as country versions in duets with genre greats such as Kenny Rogers (1938-2020), Shania Twain (58) and Willie Nelson (91). Of course, “Hello” is also featured on this album.

Famous Richie clan

Even without new hits, Lionel Richie is a familiar face among the youngest generation. Since 2018, the singer has been a member of the jury of the US talent show “American Idol” and looks after the musical offspring.

The name Richie also continues to be talked about worldwide when it comes to his own offspring. His eldest daughter Nicole Richie (42), whom he adopted in 1987, became famous alongside Paris Hilton (43) in the reality show “The Simple Life”. His son Miles Brockman Richie (30) is conquering the catwalks as a model, as is his youngest daughter Sofia Richie (25).

King Charles is also a superfan

One of the most prominent Lionel Richie fans of the older generation is the British King Charles III (75), for whom he performed on May 7, 2023 at a major concert as part of the coronation celebrations alongside many other stars such as Katy Perry (39) and Take That. “Hello” was not on his setlist, however, but his legendary disco hit “All Night Long” was.

This song will also be heard from the speakers at Lionel Richie’s birthday party today – while the arriving guests of the youthful superstar will say “Hello” to him…

Source: Stern

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