Lionel Richie makes Election Day choice easy

Richie never made it to Israel, until this year, when he will be arriving as part of his international “Hello” tour on March 2, facing stiff competition from Netanyahu and Gantz on election day.

Lionel Richie (photo credit: TNS)
Lionel Richie
(photo credit: TNS)
It may be impossible to prove, but it’s likely that more wedding receptions around the Western world have featured songs by Lionel Richie more than any other artist.
Just think – he’s got the sentimental slow-dance ballads like “Lady,” “Endless Love” and “Three Times a Lady.” And when the wedding party wants to boogie, there’s “Dancing on the Ceiling” and “All Night Long” to keep the good times rolling.
That everyman mentality that touched hearts like a Hallmark card and feet like rhythmic karaoke machine is the not-so-secret weapon of Richie’s music that catapulted him into one of the most successful artists of the 1980s, following a fruitful career as part of R&B powerhouse, The Commodores.
Already during his time as  a band member, Richie wrote and produced Kenny Rogers’s number one smash “Lady,” and the following year, he did a duet with Diana Ross on “Endless Love” (for the Brooke Shields film of the same name), which went on to become the most successful single in Motown history.
 By 1981, he had grown too big for The Commodores and his new solo career propelled him even further. At its height, he was featured on 1985’s “We Are The World” with heavyweights like Springsteen, Dylan and Jackson and was an ubiquitous figure on MTV back when it still aired music videos.
The 70-year-old Alabama native moved away from his R&B dance roots as his popularity skyrocketed and made himself a comfortable home in the adult contemporary ballad field. Then he disappeared for a decade or so, taking care of his sick father, getting divorced and returning in the early 2010s as an elder statesman of pop.
He’s enjoyed a leisurely pace since then, occasionally releasing new music and going on tour, mostly outside of the US.
“The only reason I stayed away from America is because rap came in so strong,” he told Rolling Stone in 2014. “That’s when I said, “OK, do we stay in America or do we solidify the rest of the world?” That’s why we spent so much time in Europe and Asia. America was going through a transition, so we had to make sure we were solid in the rest of the world.”
But Richie never made it to Israel, until this year, when he will be arriving as part of his international “Hello” tour. When his team booked the show for March 2 at Menorah Mivtahim Arena in Tel Aviv, neither he nor the show’s Israeli promoters thought that the R&B crooner would be facing stiff competition from Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz.
But the March 2 date for Israel’s third election in a year prompted some creative thinking. Fearing that some potential concert-goers would forgo purchasing tickers to see Richie and choose instead to watch the 10 p.m. exit polls on Election Day, the producers of the show announced Sunday that Richie’s performance would be advanced to 7 p.m. on March 2. The show will finish in time for voters to make a late run to the ballot box or to hunker down in front of their TVs to view the results.
The singer even filmed a video for the show referring to the fateful date, saying:  “Hello Israel, this is Lionel Richie, and I can’t wait to perform in Israel for the first time ever. We’re going to dance all night long. So go to vote and I’ll see you on the second of March in Tel Aviv.  See you then.”
Even though he looks to be in tremendous shape for his age or any, it’s unclear if Richie’s Israeli fans will have another chance to see him perform on these shores. However, he told Rolling Stone in the same interview that he would know when it was time to put away the microphone.
“You have to have a marker. There are a couple of guys that set the marker. I used to hang around George Burns, and I kept asking him, ‘When are you going to retire?’ He had a great line. He said, ‘Stay booked, kid. Don’t ever stop being booked. You’ll live as long as you’re booked.’ That’s number one. The next marker is ‘How old is Paul McCartney? How old are the Rolling Stones?’ If they ever decide to let it go, I’ll know what the marker is.”
“Every time a Beatle goes, ‘I enjoy doing this,’ I think, ‘Me too. Let’s keep it going.’ As long as you’re healthy and you love doing it, I can’t think of retiring and going fishing or bowling. I think I would probably pass away if I did that.”
With that philosophy, Israel can join Richie running with the (early evening) night as a reward for getting out of the house to go vote for the third time. They’ll have already heard Netanyahu and Gantz earlier in the day bellowing their own version of one of Richie’s famous songs  “Say Me, Say Me.”