Ask Billboard: Does Lionel Richie Make Billboard Chart History!

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First, a recap of Richie’s No. 1s on R&B/Hip-Hop Albums. His self-titled first solo set spent a week at the summit (Nov. 27, 1982). Follow-up “Can’t Slow Down” led for 23 weeks in 1983-84 – the fourth-longest reign since the chart premiered the week of Jan. 30, 1965.

Richie also made four trips to the top of R&B/Hip-Hop Albums as a member of the Commodores. The group, from Tuskegee, Ala. (aahh …), ruled with “Hot on the Tracks” (six weeks, 1976), “Commodores” (eight, 1977), “Natural High” (eight, 1978) and “Midnight Magic” (three, 1979) before Richie’s departure to go solo in 1982.

“Tuskegee” does not appear on R&B/Hip-Hop Albums due to its country arrangements and guests, including Jason Aldean, Tim McGraw, Rascal Flatts, Blake Shelton and Shania Twain, all of whom duet with Richie on several of his R&B hits.

“Tuskegee” is, however, Richie’s first No. 1 on Country Albums. He appeared on the chart once before, with “Can’t Slow Down,” which reached No. 55. (Trivia: Richard Marx sang backup vocals on that set, prior to his 1987 breakout as an artist. In addition to his pop success, he’s written three No. 1s on Country Songs.)

Getting to your question: how many artists have topped each survey? This week, Richie becomes just the second artist to have reached No. 1 on both Country Albums and R&B/Hip-Hop Albums.

The first? Ray Charles.

Perhaps surprisingly, Charles tallied only one No. 1 on R&B/Hip-Hop Albums: 1966’s “Crying Time.”

On Country Albums, the late legend crossed over in a similar manner as Richie: with an all-star collaboration project. “Friendship” reached No. 1 the week of March 23, 1985. The set sports duets with country icons including Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Willie Nelson and the Oak Ridge Boys

(Like “Tuskegee,” “Friendship” did not appear on R&B/Hip-Hop Albums, given the album’s sonic nature and lineup of featured core country artists.)

Richie told Billboard for the magazine’s recent cover story by Gail Mitchell that despite his status as one of the most heralded artists in R&B history, a country album has long been in the works.

“I always knew I was going to do a country album with maybe one or two duets,” Richie said. Notably, he penned Kenny Rogers’ 1980 Country Songs No. 1 “Lady” and teamed with Alabama for the 1987 Country Songs top 10 “Deep River Woman.” In between, Richie’s own “Stuck on You” had crossed over to become a No. 24 hit on the survey in 1984.

As for covering his classics with current country stars, Richie says that, ultimately, music fans appreciate a well-crafted song, regardless of genre or production style. “(‘Tuskegee’) shows just how far these songs have come.


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