Friday, October 17, 2008

Lionel Richie and "Truly"

While most everyone over the age of thirty knows of Lionel Richie and at least one of the songs from his Grammy award winning body of work, few people realize just how progressive and forward thinking Richie was in the early 1980s. Richie experimented with releasing regionally localized versions of a number of his songs years before anyone else was doing so, forging new paths for later artists to follow. This pioneering work in customizing music to multiple markets would not be commercially successful until 1989 and 1990, when two different versions of the Tyson-Ward song Black Velvet enjoyed success on both pop and country charts.

Case in point: Richie’s 1982 hit Truly spent two weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and four weeks at number one on the adult contemporary chart. However, almost no one realizes that Richie’s production company recorded a second, entirely different, version of Truly that same year.

In an effort to penetrate the lucrative country and western market with what Richie already knew would be a hit in his familiar adult contemporary niche, his production company actually cut and released a country version of Truly, sung by an unknown Arkansas resident named Karl Childers, who was at the time (get ready for this) a patient in a ‘nervous home.’

Childers’ Truly received little airplay and would have been lost to history but for the love of a handful of fans who have kept the song alive in their hearts, if not the airwaves.


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