Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden today announced that pop music icon Lionel Richie will be the next recipient of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. Richie will be honored with an all-star tribute concert in Washington, D.C., that will be broadcast nationally on PBS stations May 17 at 9 p.m. ET.
A songwriting superstar of the first order, Richie is known for his mega-hits such as “Endless Love,” “Lady,” “Truly,” “All Night Long,” “Penny Lover,” “Stuck on You,” “Hello,” “Say You, Say Me,” “Dancing on the Ceiling,” and he co-wrote one of the most important pop songs in history, “We Are the World,” for USA for Africa. His song catalog also includes his early work with the Commodores, where he developed a groundbreaking style that defied genre categories, penning smashes such as “Three Times a Lady,” “Still,” and “Easy.” Richie achieved the incredible distinction of writing No. 1 songs for 11 consecutive years.
Beyond his own impressive music career, Richie has mentored young artists as a judge on ABC’s “American Idol” for the past four seasons and is set to return for the show’s 20th season.
“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. “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.”
Richie’s songs are part of the fabric of pop music and American culture. The Tuskegee, Alabama, native has sold more than 125 million albums worldwide. He has won an Oscar, a Golden Globe, four Grammy Awards, the distinction of MusicCares Person of the Year in 2016, and was a Kennedy Center Honoree in 2017.
“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.”
Bestowed in recognition of the legendary songwriting team of George and Ira Gershwin, the Gershwin Prize recognizes a living musical artist’s lifetime achievement in promoting the genre of song as a vehicle of entertainment, information, inspiration and cultural understanding. The honoree is selected by the Librarian of Congress in consultation with a board of scholars, producers, performers, songwriters and other music specialists. Previous recipients are Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Sir Paul McCartney, songwriting duo Burt Bacharach and the late Hal David, Carole King, Billy Joel, Willie Nelson, Smokey Robinson, Tony Bennett, Emilio and Gloria Estefan, and Garth Brooks.
Richie will receive the Gershwin Prize at an all-star tribute concert in Washington, D.C., on March 9. PBS stations will broadcast the concert — “Lionel Richie: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song” — at 9 p.m. ET on Tuesday, May 17, (check local listings) and on PBS.org and the PBS Video App as part of the co-produced Emmy Award-winning music series. It will also be broadcast to U.S. Department of Defense locations around the world via the American Forces Network.
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“Lionel Richie: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song” is a co-production of WETA Washington, D.C.; Bounce, a division of Concord Music Group; and the Library of Congress.
“As producer of the vibrant series since its inception, we are excited to bring this new concert honoring Lionel Richie to the American people in collaboration with the Library of Congress,” said Sharon Percy Rockefeller, president and CEO of WETA. “This special production exemplifies WETA’s ongoing commitment to showcasing arts and culture in the nation’s capital and honoring leading artists who have made extraordinary contributions to popular music.”
“We’re thrilled to partner with the Library of Congress, WETA and our member stations to celebrate Lionel Richie and his extraordinary artistic contributions,” said Paula Kerger, president and CEO of PBS. “As America’s largest stage for the arts, PBS remains committed to bringing the best of music, theatre and dance to our audiences.”
Major funding for the broadcast is provided by the PBS and public television viewers. Wells Fargo is the presenting sponsor. Additional funding is provided by the Ira and Leonore Gershwin Fund and the Leonore S. Gershwin Trust for the benefit of the Library of Congress Trust Fund Board, Michael Strunsky, trustee; AARP; Universal Music Group; the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers; and William C. Burton. Air transportation is provided by United Airlines.
About Lionel Richie
International superstar Lionel Richie has a discography of albums and singles that are second to none. With more than 125 million albums sold worldwide, he has been awarded an Oscar, a Golden Globe, four Grammy Awards, the distinction of MusicCares Person of the Year in 2016, and was a Kennedy Center Honoree in 2017. In March 2018, Richie put his handprints and footprints in cement at the TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX in Hollywood, one of the oldest awards in Hollywood. He recently received the Ivor Novello PRS for Music Special International Award.
Richie sold out arenas worldwide with a set list of his brightest and best anthems on his All The Hits, All Night Long Tour. In recent years, he also headlined festivals including Bonnaroo, Outside Lands and Glastonbury, drawing the festival’s biggest crowd ever with more than 200,000 attendees.
Richie took fans on a spectacular musical journey with his latest album, Live from Las Vegas along with his most recent tour, the “Hello” tour, which kicked off in summer 2019. The album, which was released on August 16, 2019 was No. 1 on the Billboard Artist 100 chart. The album also marks the legendary artist’s first release on Capitol Records.
Richie was a judge on ABC’s “American Idol” for the past four seasons and is set to return to the judge’s chair for the show’s 20th season. He launched his Las Vegas headlining residency show, Lionel Richie — All the Hits in April 2016. In an unforgettable evening featuring his brightest and best anthems that have defined the music icon’s unparalleled career, Richie took his fans on a spectacular musical journey, performing a variety of his seminal hits. Richie recently extended his “Back to Las Vegas” residency at Wynn Las Vegas’ Encore Theater with a 12-show engagement in 2022.
About the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song
The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song honors living musical artists whose lifetime contributions in the field of popular song exemplify the standard of excellence associated with George and Ira Gershwin, by promoting the genre of song as a vehicle of cultural understanding; entertaining and informing audiences; and inspiring new generations of musicians.
In making the selection for the prize, the Librarian of Congress consulted leading members of the music and entertainment communities, as well as curators from the Library’s Music Division, American Folklife Center and Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division.
The Gershwin name is used in connection with the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song courtesy of the families of George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin. GERSHWIN is a registered trademark of Gershwin Enterprises.
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