Lionel Richie Named MusiCares Person of the Year

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The singer-songwriter will be celebrated at a gala event on Feb. 13, 2016, in Los Angeles featuring performances by Lady Antebellum, Pharrell Williams and Luke Bryan.

Four-time Grammy winner Lionel Richie will be feted as the 2016 MusiCares Person of the Year by the Recording Academy. So far, confirmed tribute concert performers include Grammy winners Lady Antebellum and Pharrell Williams, along with Luke Bryan. Additional performers will be announced shortly. American Idol music director Rickey Minor will spearhead the tribute’s program as musical director.

Set for Feb. 13, 2016, in L.A. — two days before the Grammys — the 26th annual gala dinner and concert benefits MusiCares, which provides financial, medical and personal support for musicians in need.

In making the announcement, the academy noted that Richie is being tapped “in recognition of his significant creative accomplishments as well as his career-spanning charitable work, which has included support for an impressive range of causes over the years, ranging from AIDS and human rights to famine, poverty, human trafficking and women's issues” and for contributing to the United Negro College Fund.

Says Neil Portnow, president and CEO of the MusiCares Foundation and the Recording Academy: “It is truly a privilege to be paying tribute to Lionel, whose musical gifts and philanthropy have touched millions of people around the world." Added Bill Silva, chair of the MusiCares Foundation Board: "Lionel's artistry is a genuine blend of emotional connection and poignant lyricism, and we look forward to a truly magical evening that will highlight his astonishing and inspiring body of work.”

In a statement, Richie calls the honor a “top of the mountain” moment. “As far as I'm concerned, this is the highest honor in our music business because it means you have a career,” says Richie, who has sold more than 100 million albums and won an Oscar. “You've survived the journey, if you will. The people who have been there defy categories. When you say Barbra Streisand, Bob Dylan and Paul McCartney — are you kidding me? When I got in this business I wanted to be like them. When you get recognition like this, it's everything.”

MusiCares/Grammy Foundation vp Dana Tomarken says the MusiCares gala is a significant fundraising source that continues to grow each year. “Thanks to the leadership of Neil Portnow and the support of the Academy trustees as a whole, they provide all of the financial support for our overhead and staff so that every dollar we generate in our fundraising efforts goes out to our [programs],” Tomarken says, adding the 2016 event will be a high-energy night courtesy of Richie and his fans and supporters. “He’s so personable and his music creates such energy that I’m looking forward to that kind of level of entertainment. Nobody will walk away disappointed.”

Also not disappointing? MusiCares’ charitable efforts. Direct financial assistance grants hit a landmark in 2015 with $4.3 million serving more than 4,300 clients in need.

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