The album "Tuskegee" is a new chapter in a career that has seen album sales of more than 100 million, 22 Top 10s, five Grammys, an Academy Award for Best Original Song, a Golden Globe, and a host of other awards and is also a musical homecoming that feels like a heartwarming reunion with a beloved friend. He proves that you can go home again as he returns to his Southern roots to pay tribute to his hometown of Tuskegee, Alabama, where he was indelibly shaped as a man and a musician. He was exposed to country, gospel, R&B and classical music while growing up, and it was in Tuskegee where he helped form the Commodores and wrote his first hits, including "Sail On" and "Easy."
"Tuskegee is where it all began, the place where I felt that everything was available and possible," he says. "It's where I learned about life and love and the power of music, and the place I built a musical foundation that knows no genres or boundaries. Doing this album was coming back to the beginning, back to basics, back to home," he says. "The part of it I love the most is that the journey has been one of discovering myself. By the time I got back to Nashville, I clearly knew that the roots of my songwriting, my storytelling, were from the South."
It's also been a process of rediscovering the hits that have served as the soundtrack of the lives of generations around the world. "Every Lionel Richie song that I can think of I had a personal experience with - high school homecomings, proms, you name it," says Gary LeVox of Rascal Flatts, who duets on "Dancin' On the Ceiling." "Lionel was always playing in my house. His music always said what we felt and couldn't express."
Says Darius Rucker, who joins Richie on "Stuck On You," "I wanted to work with Lionel because he is one of my idols. Lionel's more a part of my DNA really than an idol. It was an absolute honor to work with him." Adds Jason Aldean, who selected "Say You, Say Me," "I've always been a huge fan. He is probably one of the best singer/songwriters of this generation."
Once again, Richie is following his songs as they take him back to country, where they have been welcomed for more than two decades. Conway Twitty recorded "Three Times a Lady," Kenny Rogers famously sang "Lady" and Alabama recorded "Deep River Woman." Artists such as Tim McGraw, Darius Rucker and Rascal Flatts perform his songs in their shows. He has performed on the Country Music Association Awards three times, and his 2011 performance receive two standing ovations and was recognized as the highlight of the evening.
"When I did the CMAs and the room was singing along with me, it was really more like a family reunion than it was a concert or show," he says. "It was just great validation to know that the music was accepted like it was."
Lionel Richie's Tuskegee Track-Listing:
"You Are" with Blake Shelton
"Say You, Say Me" with Jason Aldean
"Stuck On You" with Darius Rucker
"Deep River Woman" with Little Big Town
"My Love" with Kenny Chesney
"Dancing On The Ceiling" with Rascal Flatts
"Hello" with Jennifer Nettles
"Sail On" with Tim McGraw
"Endless Love" with Shania Twain
"Just For You" with Billy Currington
"Lady" with Kenny Rogers
"Easy" with Willie Nelson
"All Night Long" with Jimmy Buffett