David Jensen Meets Lionel Richie

In a Motown Month special, the former Commodores singer turned solo artist talks about his early career, touring with The Jackson Five, his relationship with Motown label owner Berry Godry through to his latest album.

Click on the Listen links to hear the interview.

On how the Commodores signed to Motown, touring with the Jackson Five, how hanging out with Motown's secretaries led to getting label owner Berry Gordy's attention and how Marvin Gaye made him realise he wasn't the only artist who couldn't read or write music.

"When they signed me I was not the lead singer and I was not a writer so you know I was on my way out of the door backwards by some means because there was no need for me to be there, because I figured you had to read and write music to stay at Motown until I started doing interviews for my college papers and I asked the question to Marvin Gaye, I said, 'What (music) conservatory did you go to?" and he said, 'What the hell is that?" Listen

On signing to Atlantic Records and leaving the label for Motown, the creative vibe in Los Angeles, Berry Gordy encouraging internal competition and how Motown artists were educated in etiquette and interview techniques.

"You groom the artist - how to handle a television show, how to handle an interview, how to control the interview - was is it you really want to say, what are things you should never talk about...But these are wonderful things they taught early on in your career so you knew how to handle it. Now they do an interview now and I'm cringing half way through, I'm going, 'You just blew your entire career by telling the truth! It's not necessary!" (laughs). Listen

On rivalry with fellow Motown Artists, Motown's 'priority' recording system and how The Commodores rose through the ranks, on befriending star producer Norman Whitfield and how he helped with early recording sessions.

"Priority meant you guys will never see the studio until four in the morning because 'priority' - Diana Ross; priority - Marvin Gaye; priority - The Temptations; priority - Stevie Wonder,  so you never could get in...something amazing happened, one by one, The Jacksons left, The Temptations left, Smokey Robinson left. Oh my God, what a tragedy, but maybe not. Wait a minute... we're getting closer and closer to the 8 O'clock hour...it went from that group from Alabama to Commodores...and we finally got to be priority - The Commodores." Listen

On leaving The Commodores, writing for Kenny Rogers, how he was picked out for his solo talents while in The Commodores enjoyed early success as a solo singer and how Barry Gordy encouraged him to record a solo record.

"And now you start reading the reviews - 'What's a guy like Lionel Richie doing in a funk band like The Commodores?' Now try and go back to a group rehearsal after that review? Now we're getting the buzz that we're not having a good time with this guy named Lionel Richie being up front. And then the worst thing happened which is the best thing that happened. Someone said, 'Lionel, it's the perfect time in Motown to do a solo record..." Listen


On leaving Motown and how he ended up back with the business after Universal bought Motown, his latest album and how the 'old sound' is the 'new sound' and on his song 'I Love You'.

"...I realised that the old sound is now the new sound. All they did was, "We're going to put some beats upon the Lionel Richie." The next thing I said was 'And what else?" They said, 'Nothing - go out and sing the song." And I'm sitting there writing with all these guys and I realise I'm bringing to the table, melody. They're bringing to the table a new twist on how to sing it and perform it which is really the old style - it's called, a melody (laugh)." Listen


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