Lionel Richie – All Night Long (All Night)
If I had to say who was the nicest and most engaging artist of the 80s (and beyond), well, I would have no doubts: Lionel Richie. Lionel was already very famous in the late ’70s as the voice and keyboardist of the Commodores, thanks also to one of his most famous songs ever, Easy (often called “Easy like Sunday morning”). In 1982, however, Lionel decided to leave the Commodores (who would find success and fame again in 1985 with Nightshift) and to pursue a beautiful solo career.
After a first album simply titled Lionel Richie, especially successful in America, in 1983 for him came the moment of a great turning point. In fact, in October Lionel released one of the most beautiful albums of the entire decade (still one of my favorites), Can’t slow down, preceded by a fabulous single that came out on August 31 and quickly became one of the most beautiful and famous songs of all the 80s.
The story of this song began when Lionel was on vacation in the Caribbean, and was captivated by the rhythm of the calypso dance: everyone was having fun and dancing to this rhythm, it was a real sign of celebration and fun. It was the music people wanted to hear when he was on vacation. And so Lionel decided to write a song that celebrated the joy of having fun, right on this beat. The record company and the producers thought it was a bad idea, more suited to the 50s than the 80s, but luckily Lionel did not let himself be influenced.
Lionel Richie talked a lot about this song in various interviews, and he said that it took him more than two months to write it: as he himself said, “I had the lyrics, I had the idea for the music, I had pretty much everything, but I didn’t have All night long. One night I woke up suddenly, and here it was! “.
The song, as we said, is about party and fun. Simple things. Lionel Richie always said he wanted to write songs about common situations, things that happen to ordinary people. Real things: there will always be an Easy like Sunday morning, just as there will always be an All night long in people’s lives.
Lionel is a perfectionist: to give the song the party atmosphere he felt in the Caribbean, he decides to insert Caribbean and African words into the lyrics. And so we find Fiesta, Liming, which is a Caribbean word for meeting, and Karamu, which means party in Swahili. Lionel is a perfectionist, but he is also a freak, and he found himself in fantastic situations. For example, having learned that her wife’s gynecologist was had Jamaican roots, he called her on her phone to ask how to pronounce Liming, and she answered more or less … “can we talk to you later? I’m visiting a patient !! “
The most beautiful scene, however, concerns the African words that Lionel wanted to put in the text: wanting to be sure not to make mistakes, Lionel even calls the United Nations, and more or less asks … “Excuse me, could you tell me some words in African related to idea of partying? ” The poor man who answers the phone tells him that the question is a bit generic, because in Africa hundreds of languages and dialects are spoken. Lionel can’t believe it, and somehow manages to come up with a phrase a little suggested by someone, a little invented by him: “Tam bo li de say de moi ya, yeah, jambo jambo”. And they also told him … be careful Lionel, because Jambo is actually a greeting in Swahili, but it could be a bad word in some other language!
The video is great. Although filmed with moderate investments (essentially there are dancers in a studio that reproduces a village), it conveys exactly the feelings of Lionel, who drags everyone into a party where we have sort of everything: dancers and lovers, happy children, and even a policeman probably came to restore order, who immediately joins the party. The video also feature some breakdance moves, which was quite surprising at the times. It was one of the first videos of Afro-American singers to air on MTV, which initially favored Caucasian singers. As we know, Michael Jackson led the way, and Lionel Richie followed by. The song and video had resounding success. The overall feeling of the song inspired two years later another song and video, De Barge’s Rhythm of the night.
Among the backup voices of this song there is also a then unknown Richard Marx, who will have success as a songwriter in the final part of the 80s (his most famous song was the beautiful Angelia)
All night long (all night) is truly an anthem and a symbol of the 80s. Personally, I have wonderful memories of this song, and when I secretly used my father’s stereo system, this was always the first song I listened to, at full volume. In addition to being a symbol of the 80s, it is of course also a symbol of Lionel Richie’s great career, unstoppable from here onwards. In the upcoming years Lionel Richie will be one of the three artists, together with Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson, who will create the USA for Africa project in 1985, and compose the great We are the world.
Lionel Richie on Wikipedia