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Lionel Richie can’t slow down 

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click to enlarge Lionel Richie

Lionel Richie

Courtesy the Artist

In a story line from 80s comic strip Bloom County, fictional heavy metal band Deathtöngue (whose lead guitarist, the strip’s resident “Ack”-er, Bill the Cat, wears a Twisted Sister wig) try to get a record deal from a big-time record exec, but things grind to a halt when they share the lyrics from their hottest track, “Let’s Run Over Lionel Richie With a Tank.” The big-time record exec is sitting directly in front of a portrait of Richie (signed “To Clive, Thanks! Lionel”), and he tells Deathtöngue, “You can slam the door behind you.” Richie’s music—both solo and with soul and funk band the Commodores—was never intended to ruffle feathers, so Deathtöngue aren’t necessarily wrong to call it “middle-of-the-road.” But before you write it off as merely an opiate of the masses, be honest—you remember all the words to his songs, don’t you? The word “hits” is slapped front and center in a neon font directly under Richie’s photo in the promotional materials for his current Hello tour, reassuring fans that yes, they’re bound to hear the wiggle-the-elders-from-their-pavilion-seats 1986 anthem “Dancing on the Ceiling” and the similarly inspirational 1983 hit “All Night Long (All Night),” which was accompanied by a truly weird video directed by the Monkees’ Michael Nesmith. I especially love the gorgeous tearjerker “Still,” from the Commodores’ 1979 album Midnight Magic, which transcends R&B to become a ballad for the ages; at his concerts, Richie usually includes a portion of it in a medley of songs he wrote for the band. He’s probably the only artist to win an Oscar, a Grammy, and a Golden Globe who can say he’s been covered by Faith No More and Kenny Rogers. If I can’t dance on the ceiling, I don’t want to be part of the revolution.   v

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