If it wasn’t for a group of screaming girls, Lionel Richie might probably be part of the cleric these days. The singer recently revealed he was studying to become an Episcopal priest before even considering a career in the music industry.
Lionel Richie is one of the most successful singer/songwriters of our time, but his life could have been way different if he had followed the career path he was supposed to.
The “American Idol” host recently opened up to People about his five decades career, his parents’ opinion on his music journey, and his upcoming projects.
The 69-year-old revealed to the magazine that when he left his parents’ house in Tuskegee, Alabama to enroll on Tuskegee University, music was not on his plans.
“I was this Martian that showed up at the house one day with an afro. Everything I basically stood for at the beginning of my career, my mom and dad did not understand it, not one bit."
“At the time I was seriously considering being an Episcopal priest. [But] the first time I played with the Commodores, a group of girls screamed. Up until that moment no one, no girl had ever screamed at me.”
Richie never played basketball, football or baseball. He was a tennis player, and no girl would ever scream at him at a tennis match. So, when he experienced the power of the fangirls’ screams, he realized clergy was not made for him.
“It was right after those girls screamed, I remember saying to myself, ‘I don’t think I’m gonna be priest material,'” he said.
The Commodores, a funk-soul band that first earned the public attention while opening for the Jackson 5, signed a contract with Motown in 1972. They were from being a local sensation to playing at the Madison Square Garden with Bob Marley as their opening act.
And although Lionel was enjoying the high of the moment, his parents were not happy with his decision.
His community and his parents had a strong sense of education and academic life.
“My dad and mom did not understand the Commodores, because they didn’t understand that times had changed,” he recalled. And continued:
“I was this Martian that showed up at the house one day with an afro. Everything I basically stood for at the beginning of my career, my mom and dad did not understand it, not one bit. Nor did the community.”
Despite his parents’ lack of support, Richie decided to follow his gut. “Surprisingly enough, my plan worked. The Commodores got our first hit record in 1974 […] From then on I realized I could write songs and I could sing,” he said.
After Richie left the group in 1982 to pursue a solo career, his life would change forever.
“Transitioning into my solo career started with Kenny Rogers and the song I wrote for him, ‘Lady,’” he said.
“It was monumental, across the board No. 1, forget about it. Then of course, ‘Endless Love’ with Diana Ross. I’d never done a duet with anyone let alone written one. From there, the world just took off with Lionel Richie hanging on the back of the rocket.”
Richie faced ups and downs, like many other artists of the ‘80s and ‘90s, but he made sure to stay grounded by taking two years off the spotlight to take care of his sick father. That time, he says, eventually saved his life from spiraling down the same road Michael Jackson or Prince went.
Lionel is currently on his second season as a judge in “American Idol,” and he just announced his upcoming new album “Live From Las Vegas” and his “Hello Tour.”
The star is also promoting his Endless Love home decor line, and working closely with Prince Charles as Global Ambassador to the Prince’s Trust International charity.