x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

4 things you probably don’t know about Lionel Richie

From China to Iraq to South Africa, we dig up four things you probably don't know about Lionel Richie.

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 24: Musician Lionel Richie performs at the Barclays Center on September 24, 2013 in New York City.   Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images/AFP
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 24: Musician Lionel Richie performs at the Barclays Center on September 24, 2013 in New York City. Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images/AFP

If you already knew these four fascinating facts about Lionel Richie ahead of his Dubai show on Thursday, we’re very, very impressed.

You know the lyrics, the hair, the music videos, the hair, the reality star daughter and the hair. But how much do you really know about the man behind all this? Lionel Richie has been strutting his stuff since the late sixties and has, unsurprisingly, accumulated an impressive array of killer anecdotes along the way. We’d be happy to lay claim to just one these four.

He’s invented languages

“Tam bo li say de moi ya, hey jambo jambo!” sings Richie towards the end of his 1983 smash All Night Long. We all know how it goes (or, perhaps, just the ‘hey jambo jambo’ bit, sung with extra enthusiasm to make up for missing the previous lyrics, right?). But do you know what it means? With Richie being a deeply spiritual kind of guy, you’re probably thinking that it’s Swahili for ‘be true to yourself’, or maybe Berber for ‘there is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure’. It isn’t. It’s gibberish. Apparently Lionel was on the look out for some African phrases, but faced with 101 dialects and running out of time he did what any normal person would do and just made one up. What a totally bish vel ipo tombi nol sem guy.

He’s styled statesmen

Among his many, many accolades, Nelson Mandela may go down as one of the most stylish politicians that ever lived, with a dazzling array of kaleidoscopically-coloured shirts and enough international brownie points to wear them as and when he pleased. But who do we have to thank for Madiba’s fashion sense? You’re never going to guess: it’s Lionel! Shortly after being released from prison in 1990, Mandela made his way to the US for a series of public appearances and the special task of updating his rather dated wardrobe was handed to Richie (someone must have seen his sweater in the ‘Hello’ video). “Man, I decked him out. That man was looking good,” Richie told CBC’s George Stroumboulopoulos, adding that Mandela had personally thanked him for writing music that helped him through “many days of being in prison”. Reports that Mandela spent much of his 30 years in prison attempting to perfect a Richie-style moustache and ’fro combo remain unconfirmed.

He’s part of the curriculum

If you’re going to China, it might be worth getting up to speed on your Lionel Richie lyrics. When he performed Endless Love on the final of Chinese Idol last year, the singer admitted he was hugely impressed by the audience’s command of English. “They told me they teach English in schools with my songs,” he revealed to the New York Post. “It’s part of the curriculum. Hello, Say You, Say Me and All Night Long.”

He’s big in Iraq

Fingers on buzzers everyone. When US tanks rolled into Iraq in 2003, what did Iraqi civilians play on the streets? Was it a) Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are a-Changin’, b) The theme to Team America: World Police, or c) Lionel Richie’s All Night Long? That’s right, it was Lionel, according to a report by ABC’s John Berman, who added that grown men get “misty-eyed” at the mere mention of his name and can sing an entire Richie song without understanding a word of English. At a literary festival in Erbil, authors reportedly read out poetry to interpretations of Richie songs. But just why is Lionel such an icon in Iraq? “I don’t have the slightest idea,” the hitmaker revealed.

*Lionel Richie performs at the Dubai Media City Amphitheatre tonight. Doors open at 7pm. Tickets from Dh295, go to www.lionelrichiedubai.com to order.

artslife@thenational.ae