Commodores Member Revealed Long Standing Bitterness Toward Lionel Richie
ILOSM fam’ as we all know, Lionel Richie, left The Commodores in 1982 and went on to have MAJOR success as a solo artist. The only problem for the group was that not only did their lead singer leave, but their biggest hit writer at that time, Richie, left as well. To this day, there has never been a full Commodores reunion and there still seems to be some bitterness behind Richie’s decision to leave.
Richie even told Rolling Stone in 2014 that it would be a “miracle” if he can get all of the Commodores to rejoin him again on stage because two of them were still holding onto the bitter feelings from 30+ years ago. Now we know what the root to all of their bitterness is- Commodores member, William King, laid it ALL out on the table in a 1985 interview he did with L.A. Times, but most people missed this, so here is King’s side of the story as reported in RS:
“I like to think that bitterness is behind me,” said King…forcing a laugh. “I’d love to forget what happened and think nice thoughts about the whole thing. But that’s like living in a fairy tale.”
King still hasn’t forgiven Richie. The problem, King explained, isn’t that Richie left. It’s the way he left. The Commodores were in limbo throughout 1982 while their most valuable member worked on outside projects.
“He kept saying he’d be back,” King recalled, anger in his voice. “First he was coming back after working with Kenny Rogers. Then he had to do Diana Ross. Then he had to do his own album. Meanwhile we couldn’t work. He wouldn’t go on tour. And what promoter would book us without Richie? Would they book the Beatles without Paul McCartney? Richie was our McCartney.
“We weren’t mad because he decided to leave. We were mad at the procrastination. He never called up and said I’m going over there to do this and I won’t be there to work with the group. Not one of the days that he promised to be back did he show up. Finally we had to go on without him.”
Though King and the other Commodores imply that Richie was selfish and negligent during that period, Richie, in various interviews, has said he wasn’t callously stringing them along. Richie said he honestly intended to return but, after working on all those outside projects, enjoyed the freedom and was no longer interested in being part of a group.
Wait, there’s more…King also explained how much Richie’s absence affected their money…
At first the Commodores thought they could easily survive the loss of Richie. However, they weren’t fully aware of the group’s public image.
“People gave Richie credit for everything,” King said in an exasperated tone. “The world thinks he produced, arranged and wrote everything we did. We all built that sound. He wrote many of the hits but he didn’t write all of them. But that didn’t matter. People thought he did it all. So when he left nobody wanted to know about us. It was a rude awakening.”
King, the group member closest to Richie, said bitterness about the split hasn’t soured him on his old pal: “We still talk but not as much as we used to. We used to be together all the time. The honest truth is that I miss him very much. I miss the camaraderie we had. I miss the fun we had. The memories of the fun stand out over everything. I’m disappointed that we couldn’t work things out and stay together.”
King revealed that their producer-arranger decided to leave them for Lionel Richie and that just before Richie left the group in 1982, their long time manager, whom King refers to as “the glue” of their group, passed away from a heart attack. All three of those losses left the remaining Commodores in a limbo that forced them to have to keep pushing through their adversity. Nowadays they are successfully continuing to tour and bring the house down everywhere they perform and Lionel Richie is of course still doing his thing also and packing arenas.
As far as what Richie thinks of all of this, here is what he said Rolling Stone in 2014 about the pending bitterness among them, when asked about a reunion with his Commodores brothers…(turn the page)
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