By the late 1970s, he had begun to accept songwriting commissions from other artists. He composed ‘Lady’ for Kenny Rogers, which hit #1 in 1980, and produced Rogers’s album Share Your Love the following year. Latin jazz composer and salsa romantica pioneer La Palabra enjoyed international success with his cover of ‘Lady,’ which was played at Latin dance clubs.
Also in 1981, Richie sang the theme song for the film Endless Love, a duet with Diana Ross. Issued as a single, the song topped the UK and U.S. pop music charts, and became one of Motown’s biggest hits. Its success encouraged Richie to branch out into a full-fledged solo career in 1982. His debut album, Lionel Richie, produced another chart-topping single, ‘Truly,’ which continued the style of his ballads with the Commodores. Lionel Richie’s 1982 self-titled debut contained three hit singles: the U.S. #1 song ‘Truly,’ which launched his career as one of the most successful balladeers of the 1980s, and the Top Five hits ‘You Are’ and ‘My Love.’ The album hit #3 on the music charts and sold over 4 million copies. His 1983 follow-up album, Can’t Slow Down, sold over twice as many copies and won two Grammy Awards, including Album Of The Year, propelling him into the first rank of international superstars. The album contained the #1 hit ‘All Night Long,’ a Caribbean-flavored dance number that was promoted by a colorful music video produced by former Monkee Michael Nesmith.
Several more Top 10 hits followed, the most successful of which was the ballad ‘Hello’ (1984), a sentimental love song that showed how far Richie had moved from his R&B roots.
Richie had three more Top Ten hits in 1984, ‘Stuck on You’ (#3), ‘Running with the Night’ (#7) and ‘Penny Lover’ (#8). In 1985 Richie wrote and performed a suitably soothing theme song, ‘Say You, Say Me,’ for the film White Nights, winning an Oscar for his efforts as well as reaching #1 on the U.S. charts and staying there for four weeks, making it the #1 song of 1985 according to Billboard’s year-end Hot 100 chart.
He also collaborated with Michael Jackson on the charity single ‘We Are the World’ by USA for Africa, another #1 hit.
In 1986, Richie released Dancing on the Ceiling, his last widely popular album, which produced a run of US and UK hits including ‘Say You, Say Me’ (U.S. #1), ‘Dancing on the Ceiling’ (U.S. #2), ‘Ballerina Girl’ (U.S. #7), and ‘Se La’ (U.S. #20), Richie’s most recent U.S. Pop Top Twenty hit.