Lionel Richie will receive the 2022 Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, the Library of Congress announced Thursday (Jan. 13). The pop and R&B superstar will be feted at an all-star tribute in Washington, D.C., on March 9. PBS stations will broadcast the concert on May 17.
Richie is the 12th recipient of the award; the third who rose to fame at Berry Gordy’s Motown Records. The first two were Stevie Wonder (2009) and Smokey Robinson (2016). These are also the only Black composers to receive the honor.
“This is truly an honor of a lifetime, and I am so grateful to be receiving the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song,” Richie said in a statement. “I am proud to be joining all the other previous artists, who I also admire and am a fan of their music.”
Richie has received six Grammy nominations for song of the year, which puts him in a tie with Paul McCartney for the most by any songwriter in Grammy history. McCartney received the Gershwin Prize in 2010.
Richie’s song of the year nods are for “Three Times a Lady” (1978), “Lady” (1980), “Endless Love” (1981), “All Night Long (All Night)” (1983), “Hello” (1984) and “We Are the World” (1985). The latter song, which he co-wrote with Michael Jackson, is his only winner in the category.
Richie has also received three Oscar nods for best original song, for “Endless Love” from the film of the same name (1981), “Miss Celie’s Blues (Sister)” from The Color Purple (1985) and “Say You Say Me” from White Nights (also 1985). He won for the latter song.
When H.E.R., D’Mile and Tiara Thomas won both a Grammy for song of the year and an Oscar for best original song last year, they were the first songwriters to achieve that double feat with different songs since Richie did it 35 years earlier – a sign of just how dominant he was at the time.
There was no Gershwin Prize recipient last year. The most recent recipient was Garth Brooks two years ago.
The 12 recipients include two musical pairs – Burt Bacharach & Hal David (2012) and Emilio & Gloria Estefan (2019).
The first Gershwin Prize recipient was Paul Simon in 2007. Others, not already named, are Carole King (2014, the first woman to win), Billy Joel (2014), Willie Nelson (2015, the first country songwriter to win) and Tony Bennett (2017, the first non-writing performer to win).
Richie received the Kennedy Center Honors in 2017. Almost all of the Gershwin Prize recipients have also received the Kennedy Center Honors. The only exceptions are Bacharach & David and Emilio Estefan.
Carla Hayden, the Librarian of Congress, said in a statement, Richie has been an inspiring entertainer who helped “strengthen our global connections.”
“Lionel Richie’s unforgettable work has shown us that music can bring us together,” Hayden added. “Even when we face problems and disagree on issues, songs can show us what we have in common.”
Created in 2007 by the Library of Congress, the prize is named after brothers George and Ira Gershwin, who wrote such unforgettable songs as “I Got Rhythm,” “Embraceable You” and “Someone to Watch Over Me.”
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