Lionel Richie has his own rules

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Lionel Richie

Lionel Richie

Lionel Richie says growing up without knowing much music theory allowed him to be "set free from the rules" as a songwriter.

Lionel Richie was "set free from the rules" as a songwriter.

The 'Easy' hitmaker says growing up not knowing much theory about how to write music gave him a chance to really explore his songwriting talents.

He said: "I didn't know I was a writer. I thought you had to be able to read and write music and understand theory before you could write songs like that and then as I got into Motown, I realised probably half of the great writers there couldn't read or write music. Once I got that permission, if you will, it set me free from the standpoint of technically trying to write the notes down.

"The beautiful thing about it was, I think by not knowing so much theory, it set me free from the rules. I didn't know there was an R&B chart, and a classical chart and a pop chart. When I was writing I thought I was competing against the 'music business.'"

And the 66-year-old nearly didn't release his hit track 'Three Times A Lady', as he was saving it for Frank Sinatra.

He told Billboard.com: "My grandmother was a classical piano instructor at Tuskegee University. I grew up in a house and in a neighborhood where Bach and the classicals were just present every day in my home and yet I was born and raised in Alabama, so country music was very much a part of my everyday listening.

"With 'Three Times a Lady,' this was before the days of me having a piano in my own home. So I wrote this song on the university campus. It's funny how I started writing things. I didn't only write things for the Commodores. I also would write songs with somebody in mind, who I thought could sing it ... and I thought Sinatra ...

"But when my co-producer James Carmichael learned that I had this secret stash of songs, what he said to me was, 'Let's go back and see what you've written for other people.' And I played him 'Three Times a Lady' and said I want to give this to Sinatra. And he said, 'No you won't, you're going to give this to the Commodores.'"

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