Lionel Richie pulls a Ray Charles, succeeds as country artist

Richie.jpg
Courtesy of lionelrichie.com
This week in Eighties Superstars You Forgot All About News: Lionel Richie has gone country, and is actually quite good at it. Yes, that Lionel Richie. The Lionel Richie of the Commodores. The Lionel Richie who once Danced on Ceilings. This week, his country duets album Tuskegee -- named after the place of his birth -- has been certified platinum after moving over one million units in just a little over a month.

In addition to topping the Billboard Top 200 chart for two weeks in a row, Tuskegee is so far the best-selling country album of 2012, and following its March 26 release, has held the Number One spot on the Billboard Country Albums chart for four consecutive weeks. But even more notable than all this? Richie now shares an important country music distinction with Ray Charles: both are the only artists in history to enjoy simultaneous Number One albums on both the Country Albums and R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts (for Charles, it was the seminal 1962 crossover, Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music).

R&B-to-country crossovers aren't new to Richie, though; in 1980, Kenny Rogers recorded one of his biggest hits, "Lady," a song Richie penned for him before blowing up as a solo artist in his own right. "The idea was that Lionel would come from R&B and I'd come from country, and we'd meet somewhere in pop," Rogers once told an interviewer. And if that isn't the best explanation for Kenny Rogers' post-First Edition career, I'm not sure what is. Rogers joins Richie on Tuskegee in a revival of that song.

"This album continues to amaze me and I am so grateful for all that it has accomplished," Richie said in a statement released this week. "When I came up with the idea for Tuskegee, I didn't want to be confined by boundaries of age, genre or demographics. I am thrilled with how well this album has been received by people from all walks of life. It is truly living up to the vision we had when we created it."

In addition to a collaboration with Rogers, the album features duets with the likes of Jimmy Buffett, Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, Willie Nelson, Blake Shelton and Shania Twain.

An album by one of the most pop-sensible singers of the last half-century which crosses into an incredibly sellable genre... and which features Jimmy Buffett? Sure, this one was just destined to fail. Well, suppose in the unlikely scenario that it had, Richie could have always fallen back on the angle of "My adopted daughter is totally country. Has been for years. Look here - the gal even knows how to operate a can opener."

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