Meeting Lionel Richie
I’m not someone who generally goes to concerts on this scale –– the closest would have been The Irish Rovers tour that took them to St. John’s more than 20 years ago, when Kenneth was just five, and my father was still well enough to be with us. When they came on stage, Kenneth –– who’d watched their TV show over and over until the VHS tapes we’d recorded it on literally started to wear out –– was absolutely awestruck: “I can’t believe they’re here. They’re really really here.”
But even if I did go to concerts on a regular basis, no other singer-songwriter I can think of would have been as significant as Lionel Richie. As I wrote the other day, songs tell remarkable stories, and some songs –– like his ‘Endless Love’, ‘Still’, and ‘Hello’ –– become an integral part of people’s lives over months or years or even decades. For us it was ‘Three Times a Lady’.
So Wednesday night I knew what Kenneth felt like all those years ago –– I watched Lionel Richie enter the backstage room where about 20 Meet & Greet ticket holders waited, and couldn’t believe he was really really there.
But he was… and we got to tell him our anniversary story… and the people before and after us got to tell him their stories too.
Chances are he’d already heard those stories thousands of times, in one form or another. Despite that, there was a definite sense that he understood and respected just how much they meant to the people eager to share them with him.
I felt that Wednesday night when he prompted me, after we’d been interrupted for the photo op, to continue the ’30 years ago’ tale I’d started. The photos had been taken, but he made sure I had the chance to finish the story before we left. I also sensed it throughout the concert in the segments between the songs. He’s given us his songs, and they’ve become part of our lives; they’re less about him now, and more about the people who’ve grown to love them.
There’s a lesson here for writers of prose, I think… If we’re lucky enough that the stories we write come to mean something to other people, then we should always remember to respect the importance of those stories, not just to us, but to our readers.
A few other significant things that will stay with me about the evening.
First, Lionel Richie ‘live’ sounds exactly the same as he does on your download, CD, cassette, 8-track or vinyl. That voice, as it turns out, needs no help in the studio. There was something very reassuring to get confirmation that the voice we have come to know so well was truly authentic.
Second, while many of Lionel’s songs are ballads and easy-listening, there’s nothing low-energy about the live show. For him the two-hours on stage must be akin to running a marathon. I can only imagine the time and effort that goes into making sure you’re ready for that level of performance. He works hard.
Third, Lionel loves to sing. He smiles pretty much the whole time, and you can’t help but smile too.
There’s always a chance, when you look forward to something as much as we looked forward to this event, that at some point there’d be a twinge of disappointment. High hopes and all that. I had absolutely no hesitancy assuring Kenneth that it didn’t disappoint. Indeed, everything about it exceeded expectations.
And if meeting Lionel then being treated to an amazing two-hour show wasn’t enough, he also managed to leave me with four important reminders that apply to writing, publishing, and a whole host of other things.
Love what you do. Be authentic. Work hard. And never ever forget to respect the impact of what you do on other people.
Thanks Lionel. And Kenneth.