…in an industry known for its excess of everything good and bad.
“Maintaining a quality relationship with your family, with your kids, it’s very difficult,” he says, adding that “success is lethal. You like girls? You get ALL the girls! Like dope? Like alcohol? Now that you have it all, can you survive it?”
“Having kids changed me tremendously because I realized how lucky I was to have a mom and dad. And I started meeting a lot of friends in the business, they didn’t know their dads. They only had moms and some didn’t have moms or dads.”
The late, great musical genius Prince actually has to take credit for first starting Richie on this journey to fatherhood. Because it was at a Prince concert where the two met.
“The discovery was not the show for Prince,” Lionel said. “The discovery was: there’s a 2-year-old on stage with Prince playing a tambourine.”
That little tambourine player was Nicole, whom Lionel met backstage after the show. The singer, who knew Nicole’s biological parents, realized later that Nicole’s “family situation was falling apart” and wanted to help.
“I think we decided that … what we’ll do to kind of give you some stability was we’ll be like legal guardians, but nothing more,” he said.
That eventually led to Lionel and his then-wife, Brenda Harvey Richie, adopting Nicole. At this point, the “All Night Long” singer was at one of the heights of his career and explained to Nicole that while work required him to be gone for weeks and sometimes months at a time, he would always come back.
“I remember you had abandonment issues for obvious reasons. You’d been handed around to every relative in the family,” he said. “I remember what I said to you. I said, ‘I’m never, ever going to leave you.’”
That was a promise he made to Nicole, and soon Lionel realized, in the midst of touring and songwriting, that he ended up getting the same thing in return.
“I think you (speaking to Nicole)…changed my life a great deal in terms of softening my heart, because everything up to that point was about songwriting and the business and touring,” he said. “All of a sudden I found something that I could actually fall in love with that was never going to leave me.
The Tuskegee, Alabama native not only passes on the lessons he learned from his own father, but also the strength of his grandmother. In he late 80s, his grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer and survived to live to be 103 years old. Inspired by her, Richie is a long-time breast cancer activist, raising more $3.1 million dollars to the cause.
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