40 years ago, Kenny Rogers called Lionel Richie on the phone and asked him to write him a song.
The Commodores' string of hits, including Easy, Still, and their breakthrough hit Three Times a Lady had earned them a reputation as emerging stars, and country-pop star Rogers had noticed.
Reminiscing on the moment the two musicians spoke over the phone in an interview with Spin, Richie responded that "he didn't have time," but quickly obliged when the country-pop star hinted that his forthcoming Greatest Hits album (which the song would be included on) was forecasted to sell around 5 million copies.
Richie quickly pitched the barebones of the song-in-progress, "Lady," informing Rodgers that the Commodores had turned down the song, to Rodgers' delight.
"All I really played were the first few notes and he just looks and tells me to finish it and meet him in the studio in a week."
The two legendary singers met in the studio shortly, and after playing the first verse that Richie had jotted down, Rodgers asked, "Where's the second verse? Then someone [told] [Rodgers] [that] Lionel [was] in the bathroom writing it because he [worked] best under pressure."
The song now ranks as one of Roger's biggest-selling hits and foreshadowed Richie's own success to follow in his solo career. Following the success of "Lady," Richie recorded an R&B-oriented version of the song on his own 1998 album Time, and the duo performed a country-leaning version song as a duet in Richie's 2012 album Tuskegee.
"Lady" would prove to be an important milestone for both solo artists as the song became the first record of the 80's to appear on all four Billboard charts (Country, Hot 100, Adult Contemporary, and Top Black Singles), peaking at No. 1 in mid-November 1980 for a massive six-week stay.
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