Sure, Lionel Richie wrote the soundtrack to the ’80s and ’90s and earned an armful of Grammys and an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1985.
And yes, Chinese schools use his “Say You, Say Me” and “Hello” to teach students English.
It’s also true that Nelson Mandela listened to Richie’s songs to soothe himself in prison; and that American soldiers blasted “All Night Long” from their Humvees as they entered Iraqi villages to show they meant no harm.
But can Richie keep his 19-year-old son, Miles, from getting an illegal tattoo from an underage Kardashian, and having the whole mess go viral?
“Oh, God. Can I tell you? Don’t get me started,” Richie said the other day from his home in Beverly Hills. “This is God’s way of getting me back for all the [stuff] I ever did.
“I just hang on for dear life and hope it’s not going to get too bad.”
Richie just launched his “All the Hits All Night Long” tour, which will bring him to Seattle’s KeyArena on Friday, May 30.
The title isn’t much of a stretch. Richie, 64, has had 13 consecutive Billboard Top Ten hits, five of them reaching number one. He writes songs the way most people wash their hands.
Good or bad day, first thing in the morning and last thing at night, Richie stops at his piano.
“It’s a little destination, just to see,” he said. “The more you don’t think about it, the more the music is there. That’s why I cut the hedges. The poor hedges are being hacked to death, but by the time I’m finished, I’ve got five more songs.”
They are catchy and happy, or slow and romantic. They are reworked with the country twang of his native Tuskegee, Ala. And they are loved, worldwide.
In recent years, Richie has enjoyed new popularity in the Arab world, his audience filled with Palestinians and Israelis. He recalled playing in Belfast, where Catholics and Protestants sat side by side.
“I get one of the greatest things in the world. I go into a war zone and have people on both sides waving at me.”
Here at home, people hand him their phones, wanting him to record voice-mail greetings with a signature lyric from “Hello”: “Hello? Is it John you’re looking for?”
The song has spawned merchandise ranging from T-shirts to cheese plates (“Hello, is it Brie you’re looking for?”), all bearing his face.
“That is a happy spot, to bring any kind of joy to this maddening world I’m living in,” Richie said. “If that’s all it takes, we’re doing OK.”
7:30 p.m. Friday, May 30, at KeyArena, Seattle Center; $23-$121 (800-745-3000 or www.ticketmaster.com).