Entertainment

Lionel Richie's plans for when he visits earthquake ravaged Christchurch

Heads up Cantabrians - if a man who looks suspiciously like Lionel Richie approaches you, chances are it's the one and only.

By Donna Fleming

Here's a heads up for Christchurch residents: If you happen to be in the city centre next month and see a man wandering around who looks uncannily like Lionel Richie, chances are it will be the legendary singer himself.

Lionel is performing in Auckland and Christchurch in April, and when he's in the Garden City, he wants to spend some of his time having a look at how things are coming on after the earthquake.

In 2011, the Hello singer joined forces with Australian performer Guy Sebastian to record a new version of his hit All Night Long to raise money for earthquake victims. Looking back, he recalls how horrified he was to hear that an earthquake had wreaked devastation in a country he'd enjoyed visiting in the past.

"When I heard about it, I asked, 'How bad is it?' They told me, 'Lionel, it's bad, it's really bad.' New Zealand has been very good to me in my career – I wanted to do something to help. It was so devastating for the people.

"The last time I was on tour in New Zealand, after the earthquake, they showed me around and I saw the damage myself. I want to go back this time – I'm curious to see how it looks now. I might get them to pull over so I can get out of the car and wander around, and maybe talk to a few locals."

Lionel (68) performed in Christchurch in 2014, and says he was heartened by how people who came to his show were able to forget their problems, even just for a couple of hours.

"People might have lost their homes or their office building or their church, but they showed up and they were wild and crazy, and they had a good time," he says. "That's one of the things I love most about what I do. If I can take people in my audience away from the rollercoaster their life is, then I am very happy to do that."

Lionel with fellow American Idol judges Katy Perry and Luke Bryan.
Lionel with fellow American Idol judges Katy Perry and Luke Bryan.

He also loves it when fans tell him how much his music has meant to them over the years. "People come up to me all the time and say, 'Lionel, your songs helped me through some rough spots.' One lady said she was considering suicide, then she heard one of my songs and it meant something to her.

"People tell me Endless Love or Truly is their and their wife's or husband's song because it brought them together, and I think how lucky I am that my music has done this.

"When it comes to getting engaged, married or divorced even, I got you covered with my songs! When I wrote them, I had no idea people would take them and turn them into their own personal stories, but it is great that they do. These songs are not just the soundtrack to my life but to other people's as well and that's humbling."

He's also delighted that songs he wrote a very long time ago – he first had hits with the Commodores in the 1970s, before embarking on a very successful solo career in the 1980s – are resonating with younger generations.

"There are 27-year-olds playing Endless Love at their weddings. Or I look in the front row of my concerts and I see nine-year-olds singing along to Easy Like Sunday Morning and Sail On, and I think, 'You were nowhere thought of when these songs came out, but you know all the words. Wow!"

While he's in Aotearoa, Lionel hopes to catch up with former Commodores bandmate Ronald LaPread (second from left), who now lives in Auckland.
While he's in Aotearoa, Lionel hopes to catch up with former Commodores bandmate Ronald LaPread (second from left), who now lives in Auckland.

Lionel says he'll never get sick of performing hits from both his solo career and his Commodores days. "I love it all. The Commodores – that was back when I had an afro the size of Christchurch and now here we are in 2018, and I'm just happy to see there is still hair on my head!"

As well as still performing as much as he can, Lionel has also been working as a judge on the new series of American Idol alongside pop star Katy Perry and country singer Luke Bryan. The others certainly make things entertaining, he reveals.

"Sometimes I can't believe the things that come out of their mouths. Katy will say something and I think, 'Did you really say that?' Luke is a country guy – he's all 'Shucks' and 'Ma'am.'

Daddy cool: Lionel with Sofia at an awards show in November.
Daddy cool: Lionel with Sofia at an awards show in November.

"It is hilarious watching them while I'm sitting there trying to keep it together so we can maintain some kind of integrity.It can be stressful and if I hadn't had practice with my kids, I would probably pass out on set."

He chuckles as he adds, "When you have Nicole Richie as your daughter, you can't kill me – I know that for a fact. If I haven't died by now, then I am not going to die anytime soon."

Nicole (36) has been the subject of many tabloid headlines over the years, particularly for her weight loss and also her run-ins with the law, including several arrests for drug possession and drink driving. She's stayed out of the limelight in recent years since marrying Good Charlotte singer Joel Madden and having two children, Harlow (9) and Sparrow (8).

Now it's her half-sister Sofia (19) who is in the news over her romance with Kourtney Kardashian's ex Scott Disick (34).

It's thought Lionel disapproves of Sofia's romance with Scott, who is 15 years older than her.
It's thought Lionel disapproves of Sofia's romance with Scott, who is 15 years older than her.

Lionel, who also has a son, Miles, is said to disapprove of Scott and reportedly banned him from a family event.

But he's philosophical about what his kids get up to.

"Having kids is like trying to herd chickens, they're all going in different directions. As a parent, you think you are in charge, and then they get older and you realise you don't actually have that much control over what they do.

"You can sit there all day long telling them, 'That's the wrong way,' but they don't listen. You just have to let them fly where they need to fly and remind them where the centre is. Occasionally they will come back to you."

It seems marriage and motherhood have helped calm former reality TV rebel Nicole, seen with kids Sparrow (left) and Harlow.
It seems marriage and motherhood have helped calm former reality TV rebel Nicole, seen with kids Sparrow (left) and Harlow.

He says he can't be too critical of his children for trying to find their way in life and feeling like they are bulletproof because he used to be the same.

"My parents had plans for me to be a doctor, and I came home with this huge afro and said my band was going to be the black Beatles and we were going to take over the world. My mum and dad looked at me like I had lost my mind, but that was the direction I wanted to go in and luckily, it worked for me."

He plans to keep performing for as long as he can, including touring the world as much as possible. "I'm not going to tell you I have plans to retire because I can't see that happening right now.

I enjoy being on stage too much. I like working hard. In fact, I think I'm addicted to exhaustion. If I have three days off, I am going to be so bored by the third day, I will be getting on the phone and creating some mess somewhere.

Nicole, Sofia and Miles supported the star as he was given a spot on the Hollywood Walk of Fame earlier this month.
Nicole, Sofia and Miles supported the star as he was given a spot on the Hollywood Walk of Fame earlier this month.

"Successful businessmen say what they do is not about how much money they make – it is the experience of making the deals that counts, and I get that. I love the experience. Sometimes I say to myself, 'Lionel, how is this work?' It isn't really, it's fun. I'm just doing what I used to do in class when I was seven years old – singing, talking too much and acting silly – but I am getting away with it."

So while he may be heading towards 70, putting his feet up is not an option at the moment.

"As long as I can still sing and my body can get me from one side of the stage to the other, then I am as happy as can be."

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