When all is said and done, it’ll be really sad if people only remember Lionel Richie by virtue of (in order of embarrassment):

*”We Are the World 2010″

*Getting the tar beat out of him by his ex-wife Brenda back in the mid-Eighties

*being Nicole Richie’s father (although Nicole has done a great job disassociating herself from the whole Paris Hilton network).

Fact of the matter is, Lionel Brockman Richie has been writing and performing great songs for forty years now. As cheesy as some of his material may be, it’s well crafted enough that many of his songs have stood the test of time and are now standards.

Think about it. There’s “Easy”. “Three Times a Lady”. “Lady”. “Still”. “Sail On” (one of my personal favorites).”Endless Love”. Even songs like “Hello” and “All Night Long (All Night)”…I mean, you may cringe when those songs come on the radio, but it takes a lot of talent to get “sam bo li ta day dee mo ya! yay jambo jambo!” on the radio. (I’m kidding. Kind of). I would also add “Brick House” to this canon, but-surprise y’all. Lionel didn’t write (nor did he sing on) this Commodores classic.

Even after the hits ran out and Lionel took a ten-year break between studio albums, he didn’t lose his ability to make well-constructed music. 1996’s “Louder Than Words” is, after his 1983 mini-“Thriller” “Can’t Slow Down”, Lionel’s best recorded work. Although the album features an awkward attempt at copping a Dre-like synth groove on “Wanna Take You Down” and he totally rips off his own “Just to Be Close to You” on “Don’t Wanna Lose You”, there are some gems here. The heartfelt proposal jam “Say I Do” is excellent, as is the country-esque “Still in Love”. After “Don’t Wanna Lose You” petered out in the lower regions of the Top 40, Island released “Ordinary Girl” as “Louder”‘s second single. It didn’t chart, but I have no idea why. It’s easily one of Richie’s best performances.

What makes “Ordinary”‘s failure even more confusing is Babyface’s involvement in this song. Back in 1996, ‘Face was everywhere. The fact that he had anything at all to do with this song should have blown it up. In addition, they somehow managed to convince Peter Gabriel to sing background vocals! ‘Face, Lionel and Peter Gabriel on the same song! And NO one knows about it! How does that happen?

I vaguely remembered there being a video for it, and chances are if you’re reading this you’ve already watched it. I couldn’t even get it on YouTube. Man, that sucks. Y’all can’t be doin’ Lionel dirty like that!!

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