There will be no Covid-19 in this conversation.

About once a week, Paula and I spend most of our evening watching our favorite singers, bands, orchestras, and instrumentalists perform on YouTube. We have long since created a lengthy list of our favorites, which appears automatically on YouTube so we don't have to spend a lot of time searching for them.

We were watching the Kennedy Center Honors from four or five years ago when Earth, Wind and Fire was honored for the group's contributions to the music industry. The KCH producers noted the genius of EW&F's founder, the late Maurice White ... and rightfully so. He died on February 4, 2016. Others from the group who were honored were lead singer Philip Bailey, and multi-talented singer and percussionist Ralph Johnson and Verdine White, brother of Maurice and bassist for the group.

The night's musical tribute to Earth, Wind and Fire included John Legend, Cynthia Erivo, Ne-Yo, and the Jonas Brothers. If you're looking for something to watch that'll make you glad you did, check out John Legend's "Can't Hide Love," which opens the night's tribute to the group. It's superb. The same goes for the rest of the performers.

After thoroughly enjoying the EW&F Kennedy Center Honors program, we checked out the Neil Diamond tribute from 2011. The first singer we watched was Lionel Richie singing "I Am I Said." If Lionel had sung the lyrics as written, it would have gone like this:

Well I'm New York City born and raised

But nowadays

I'm lost between two shores

L.A.'s fine, but it ain't home

New York's home

But it ain't mine no more.

 

Instead, Lionel substituted a couple of words that really made me feel proud for him, our state, and his hometown. Here's the second verse with Lionel's new lyrics:

Well I'm Alabama born and raised

But nowadays

I'm lost between two shores

L.A.'s fine, but it ain't home

Tuskegee's home

But it ain't mine no more

 

Staying true to his roots, Lionel Richie brought a smile to the faces of folks who share his pride in the place he was raised.

All this leads me to a story about Lionel and a local grocery store. This is a true story ... I have a witness ... as you are about to find out.

Paula (my witness) and I had run by the Winn Dixie near the intersection of the Southeastern Boulevard and the Troy Highway (231 South) to pick up a couple of items to make the boys' lunches for the coming week. There weren't many people in the store ... in fact it was practically empty. Paula and I knew it was nearly closing time so we scooted up and down the almost empty aisles.

As we came to the end of one of the aisles, a man walking toward us spoke to me something like this ... "Hey, Bob. You are the TV newsman, right?" I looked up from the store shelves and to my surprise, it was Lionel Richie. I couldn't believe my eyes. IT WAS LIONEL RICHIE ... speaking to me. He acted as though we were good friends meeting up on a Sunday night at the grocery store. I answered saying something like, "Well, imagine meeting you here! Aren't you supposed to be in Los Angeles or Las Vegas or some place like that?"

I introduced Paula, who was as cool as the center seed of a cucumber when it came it came to meeting a real superstar. She continued her "grocery store talk" with Lionel as though he were one of her girlfriends. 

He told us that he was back in Tuskegee at his grandmother's ... just taking a few days off and taking care of some business. I asked about touring dates and where he would be in concert in the coming year. He told us that he stayed on the "down low" when he was back home. He talked about how family members and close friends helped him keep his visits top secret. I got the idea that folks in Tuskegee treated him like a national treasure.

After our brief encounter with a true musical star, Paula and I thanked him for his time and for being a "regular guy" who shopped at Winn Dixie.

While preparing this week's conversation, I asked Paula what she remembered about meeting Lionel. She said he "acted like a genuinely nice guy who was interested in what people had to say to him." She said she noticed how he made steady eye contact and was not "always looking over my shoulder" as other celebrities we had met had done. 

Online, Lionel is quoted as saying , "I just like people. I'll hold a conversation at as gas station. It's not just about the fame and fortune. I just like people." You can add Paula's name and mine to folks who have benefited from his liking everyday people. 

Just like Lionel, I'm proud to be Alabama born and raised.

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