Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress, expressed her excitement in paying tribute to Richie for his vast accomplishments in music.
“In so many ways, this national honor was made for Lionel Richie, whose music has entertained and inspired us— and helped strengthen our global connections,” Hayden said in a statement. “Lionel Richie’s unforgettable work has shown us that music can bring us together. Even when we face problems and disagree on issues, songs can show us what we have in common.”
Named after the songwriting duo George and Ira Gershwin, the Library of Congress “recognizes a living musical artist’s lifetime achievement in promoting the genre of song as a vehicle of entertainment, information, inspiration, and cultural understanding.”
Richie joins Stevie Wonder (2009) and Smokey Robinson (2016) as the only Black composers to win the prize.
“This is truly an honor of a lifetime, and I am so grateful to be receiving the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song,” Richie said. “I am proud to be joining all the other previous artists, who I also admire and am a fan of their music.”
A four-time Grammy and Oscar winner, Richie burst on the music scene with his iconic funk group The Commodores. He composed the band’s biggest hits such as “Machine Gun,” “Brick House,” “Three Times a Lady,” “Still,” “Easy,” and many more.
As a solo artist, Richie launched into international superstardom with his sophomore album Can’t Slow Down which sold over 20 million copies worldwide, becoming one of the best-selling albums of all time. The LP featured two number-one singles “All Night Long (All Night)” and “Hello.” In 1985, he co-wrote “We Are the World” with Michael Jackson, which sold over 20 million copies.
Currently, Richie has been a judge on American Idol for the last four seasons.
An all-star tribute concert will take place in Washington, D.C., on March 9 and will air on PBS on May 17 at 9 p.m. ET.