Lionel Richie goes country on new album 'Tuskegee'

Tue Mar 27, 2012 6:49pm EDT
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By Vernell Hackett

NASHVILLE, Tenn (Reuters) - If he hadn't known better, Lionel Richie jokes that he might have felt insulted when initially sitting down with some of today's top country stars to record his new album of duets, "Tuskegee."

"I pulled out the lyrics to the songs, and they were like, 'what's that?'

"I said, 'here are the lyrics.'" Richie says with a mock look of astonishment, then smiles. "They said, 'Oh no, man. I know this. I've been singing it since 1983 or 1987,'. Someone even said, 'I've been singing these songs since I was in elementary school.'

"I was like, 'Thank you very much, I didn't need to hear that,'" the 62-year-old told Reuters about re-recording some of his memorable songs with the likes of Kenny Chesney, Blake Shelton, Jason Aldean, Willie Nelson and Little Big Town.

"Tuskegee," which hit record stores on Monday, features Richie and 13 country stars singing some top hits of his heyday in the 1980s, including "Hello," "Stuck On You" and "All Night Long."

Going country may seem out of place for the pop and R&B singer who gained stardom in the 1970s with the funk and soul group The Commodores, perfecting his brand of romantic ballads then embarking on a major solo career.

But the Alabama native is no stranger to country music, and several of his mega hits have been covered with a twang. The late Conway Twitty recorded Richie's "Three Times a Lady" and Kenny Rogers scored a hit with the Richie-penned "Lady."

"I've always felt right at home in country because I was raised just down the road from Nashville in Tuskegee, Alabama, where I was immersed in country, R&B, gospel and classical music," Richie said.   Continued...

Singer Lionel Richie arrives at the 2011 American Music Awards in Los Angeles November 20, 2011. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok