As if you needed any more reasons to love Lionel Richie…

We chat to legendary pop star and great music mind Lionel Richie ahead of his gig in the capital this weekend about his dream collaborations, his hardest song (Diana Ross was involved) and why he gave up the ministry for music…

You’ve mentioned you thought seriously about becoming a priest before a girl screamed at your first performance with your band. What changed for you at that moment?

Well, I went back to my fellow minister friends and said ‘I don’t think I will be priest material’. When I joined the band, this girl screamed on the front row. All it takes is to hear a girl scream, and you go, ‘whatever that occupation is, I’m in that business’. You know, between the age of 21 and 31, you don’t care what it is, as long as you don’t get your head knocked off. So, that was my entry to the music business.

Is it true your song Hello, started off as a joke?

It was absolutely a joke. My co-producer, James Carmichael, was late coming into the writing session, and when he showed up, he walked around the door and I had just played a few cords and I just said “Hello, is it me who you looking for…” and he didn’t laugh. He said, finish that song. And I said “James, this is a joke. This is a joke!” He said, “No – no that’s a great song.”

I thought I was going to be the laughing stock of the business because you can’t get any cornier than “Hello is it me who you looking for…” And of course, here we are, years later – it worked!

You’ve said one of the hardest songs of your career was Endless Love with Diana Ross. Why was it so difficult to create?

It was so difficult because first of all I had never written a duet before in my life – number one. Number two, of all the people to practice on you don’t practice with Diana Ross. On top of that we had gotten to a point where we were like ‘OK, who is going to sing what part?’. She would say “I don’t like that part” which means whatever I wrote I had to change it to make her feel more comfortable.

It started out as an instrumental, all they wanted was like a Love Story and I came in with a song called Ba Ba and then they were saying we want some lyrics. The next thing I know, they wanted a duet with Diana Ross. You can’t get any harder than that.

Who are you excited about in the music industry right now? Who would you love to collaborate with?

I would love to line them up one by one. Bruno Mars, I think is an excellent writer. Frank Ocean is a fabulous writer. These guys are the new guys on the block. Again, there’s Justin Timberlake – you know these are right in my melodic group. And if you just want to go real left and real right – I’d say Dave Grohl. You know how you get around people and you realise – ‘you know what? Even though you’re a complete rock’n’roll guy, you’re so melodic I think we can do something together’ and that’s what kind of guy he is. I just love him.

Lionel Richie will perform at the Formula 1 After Race Concert on Saturday, November 26 at the du Arena. Unfortunately only ticket holders for the F1 will have access to the concert. For more information visit: