Lionel Richie, unarguably one of the most prolific singers-songwriters of the late ’70s and ’80s, has enlisted a cadre of country music superstars for an upcoming duets album, Tuskegee, including Shania Twain, Kenny Rogers, Willie Nelson, Tim McGraw, Rascal Flatts and Darius Rucker.
As the former front man for the Motown act, The Commodores, Richie took off on a solo tip when he wrote a string of pop music hits “You Are”, “All Night Long”, “Hello”, “Running with the Night”, “Say You, Say Me”, “Stuck on You”, “Dancing on the Ceiling”, “Easy” and others that elevated Richie to the rarified pop cultural air that was also occupied then by the likes of Michael Jackson, Prince, Sting-The Police, U2 and Madonna.
And let’s not forget that Richie also co-wrote the international blockbuster “We Are the World” with the late King of Pop, which was once the bestselling single the world had ever seen. He was also instrumental in recruiting the collection of American icons to sing the song and contribute to the USA for Africa philanthropic endeavor.
Ironically, the country music icons Richie recruited for this album of duets, due out in March, are singing the country version of the aforementioned hits from Richie’s golden past. Tuskegee is also an homage to his hometown as well as his alma mater. Richie attended Tuskegee and innocently formed a band for the simple idea of getting in good with the college girls, he once said.
“As my songwriting progressed, I realized that my songs perfectly translated to the country genre,” Richie says. As for the album title, Richie quipped that he’s always had that country-boy swag. “I was born and raised in Tuskegee, Ala. I am a country boy and proud of it. To do this project just felt natural.”
“Growing up with country, R&B, gospel and classical music from my grandmother and pop, Tuskegee was the perfect melting pot for my influences as a writer, and the title, Tuskegee, is a validation of my growing up there — the place I call home.”
Lionel Richie has revealed the track listing for his upcoming country album and will be joined by Rascal Flatts, Darius Rucker and Little Big Town to perform portions of several of his hits during this year’s CMA Awards show.
Set for release in March, Tuskegee features 13 of Richie’s most famous songs re-recorded as duets with country artists. The track listing includes:
“You Are” (Blake Shelton)
“Say You, Say Me” (Jason Aldean)
“Stuck on You” (Rucker)
“Deep River Woman” (Little Big Town)
“My Love” (Kenny Chesney)
“Dancing on the Ceiling” (Rascal Flatts)
“Hello” (Jennifer Nettles)
“Sail On” (Tim McGraw)
“Endless Love” (Shania Twain)
“Just for You” (Billy Currington)
“Lady” (Kenny Rogers)
“Easy” (Willie Nelson)
“All Night Long” (Jimmy Buffett)
After Richie graduated from Tuskegee Institute, the Commodores opened up, ironically for the Jackson 5 when the band began scoring a series of hits that included “Easy,” “Brick House” and “Three Times a Lady.” His solo career garnered five Grammys and an Academy Award for best original song (“Say You, Say Me” from the film, White Nights).
Richie is no stranger to success in the country genre. He scored a No. 1 country hit with Kenny Rogers’ “Lady” and a Top 10 with Conway Twitty‘s version of “Three Times a Lady.” In 1986, he and Alabama reached No. 10 on the country singles chart with their recording of “Deep River Woman,” which he also wrote.
— terry shropshire