“Hello. Is it success you’re looking for?”
The springtime sun was shining on Lionel Richie as never before in 1984. As May melded into June that year, Can’t Slow Down was continuing its march to become the biggest album of his career, at home and abroad. Only the movie soundtrack of Footloose was strong enough that month to keep Lionel from the top of Billboard’s Top LPs & Tape chart – where it had previously spent three weeks – but over on the Top Black LPs ranking, he was closing on 20 weeks at the summit.
Meanwhile, Lionel’s current single from the album, “Hello,” was in the Top 10 in Canada, Germany, Australia and Spain – among other countries – and slowly descending the U.S. and U.K. charts, where it had reached Number One.
May ’84 also marked the start of Lionel’s barnstorming tour of the U.S., which had kicked off in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and was due to finish in mid-July in California. The first few dates had cumulatively already grossed more than $1 million, with one city alone – Dallas, Texas – accounting for a quarter of that number. His special guest on the roadshow? Tina Turner.
The music of the singer-songwriter’s first solo album, Lionel Richie, was still being showered with accolades. At the first annual most-performed pop songs awards event held May 3 in Los Angeles by rights society ASCAP, he was honored as songwriter of the year. Moreover, three tunes from Lionel Richie had earned prizes of their own: “Truly,” “My Love” and “You Are.” All had been Top 5 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, and “Truly” had reached Number One.
Little wonder, then, that Motown Records’ president, Jay Lasker, took out a splashy trade-press advertisement in May to praise his artist. “You are,” declared the executive, “the only songwriter ever to have had a #1 record in Billboard’s Hot 100 pop charts every single year for seven years in a row. Starting in 1978 with the Commodores’ “Three Times A Lady,” you came through in 1979 with “Still”; in 1980 with Kenny Rogers’ “Lady”: in 1981, “Endless Love”; in 1982, “Truly”; in 1983, “All Night Long”; and this year, we have your current #1, “Hello.” What else can be said?”
“Can’t slow down”? What better catch-phrase – and album title – for an American superstar?