The American Idol judge and former member of the Commodores was on hand to accept the high honor from his longtime friend Smokey Robinson, who presented him with the award in Los Angeles at Microsoft Theater.
“I’m so honored to be here, giving this award to my brother, my friend,” Robinson told the crowd before dubbed Richie a “legend.” He then added, “But before he became all that, I knew him as the guy with the biggest afro in the Commodores.”
“Simply put, there have been few careers that have had as much diversity as Lionel Richie,” he continued. “He has mentored and inspired countless musicians.”
Richie then took to the stage to graciously accept the award and marveled in the spotlight as he reflected on the moment as “full-circle.”
“I started here, at the AMAs. My career, to this day, 40 years later, I’m back at the AMAs,” Richie shared. “My AMA family started with Dick Clark,” he continued, “then of course from there, my family. I wanna thank my kids, and the mothers of my kids, for keeping my kids together.”
He also sent a message to the “young superstars” in attendance at the coveted awards show.
“God has given you a light. That light is special. That light is only given to a few,” Richie said. “When you hear the word ‘hit,’ that means today. When you hear the word ‘inspiring,’ that means forever. If you get the chance to have that light on you, understand what God has in store.”
The American Music Awards’ Icon Award honors “an artist whose body of work has marked a global influence over the music industry.” Rihanna was the first recipient of the award in 2013.
Richie is now the only artist in history to be featured on the AMAs stage in every decade since the show’s inception.
As a songwriter and performer, Richie has sold more than 125 million albums sold worldwide and has received numerous awards throughout his storied career including an Oscar®, four GRAMMYS®, and a Golden Globe® among other notable industry distinctions.
As a performer, his incomparable music catalog has earned him 12 No. 1 hits and 13 Top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts, and led to collaborations with some of the industry’s iconic personalities, such as Kenny Rogers, Diana Ross and Barbra Streisand.
Richie’s 12 No. 1 hits were released in 11 consecutive years, ranging from his No. 1 hit in 1977 with the Commodores, “Easy,” to a consecutive string of other No. 1 successes including “All Night Long (All Night),” “Say You” and “Dancing on the Ceiling.” Richie also penned the Kenny Rogers song “Lady,” which spent six weeks at No. 1.
Embarking on a new chapter in 1981, Richie launched his solo career with a multi-week No. 1 hit, “Truly”; and later his album “Can’t Slow Down” had five chart-topping singles including his memorable hit “All Night Long” and is on record as the biggest selling album in the history of Motown Records.
In 1985, Richie co-wrote the global anthem “We Are the World” with Michael Jackson, recording with more than 45 artists surrounding the American Music Awards. The song spent four weeks as the No. 1 on the Hot 100 and charted around the world, helping to raise millions of dollars to support famine relief efforts in Africa and went on to win multiple GRAMMYS.
He took home the Academy Award® for “Best Song” in 1986, where he was in contention twice in the same category for his hit composition of “Say You, Say Me,” for the film “White Nights.” In 2016, Richie was named the MusiCares Person of the Year and was the recipient of the coveted Johnny Mercer Prize by the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 2017, Richie received the Kennedy Center Honors Award and in 2022, Richie was awarded the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Richie sold out arenas worldwide on his All The Hits, All Night Long Tour and has headlined festivals including Bonnaroo, Outside Lands and Glastonbury. He launched his Las Vegas headlining residency show Lionel Richie – All the Hits in April 2016, and his subsequent 2019 album Live from Las Vegas hit No. 1 on the Billboard Artist 100 chart upon release. The album brought fans inside the spectacular musical journey of his brightest and best anthems that have defined his unparalleled career.
Richie extended his “Back to Las Vegas” residency in 2022 at the Wynn Las Vegas’ Encore Theater with dozens of concerts, and will continue the highly successful residency into 2023. Richie serves as a judge on ABC’s “American Idol” and is currently filming his sixth season on the show.
“I’m immensely grateful for a career that has taken me to places I never imagined that I’d go, from arenas worldwide to studio sets to the AMA stage,” said Richie. “I can recall one of the first times I got to perform at the AMAs. It was to sing ‘We Are the World’ among the most iconic musicians of my generation, so it is surreal to be receiving this recognition 36 years later.”
The definition of an icon, Richie has won 17 AMAs over the course of his career, starting with the 1979 hit pop/rock single “Three Times a Lady” with the Commodores. Richie won again in 1980 with the Commodores for Soul/R&B Group before going on to receive the bulk of his awards for his solo career. He took home two awards in 1982 for “Endless Love,” two in 1983 for Pop/Rock Single (“Truly”) and Soul/R&B Male, and the award for Favorite Soul/R&B Single for “All Night Long (All Night)” in 1984.
The following year, Richie – who hosted the 1985 show – had a record-breaking evening, winning six AMAs in one night, including Pop/Rock Male and multiple video awards for “Hello.” In 1987, he again took home Pop/Rock Male and earned four awards throughout the night. To this day, he holds the record for most music video AMAs with six wins and is among the most decorated AMA winners of all time as this year’s Icon Award brings his total to 18 awards.
The 2022 American Music Awards featured performances from Carrie Underwood, Imagine Dragons, P!NK, Yola, Anitta, Bebe Rexha, D-Nice (House DJ), Dove Cameron, GloRilla, J.I.D., Lil Baby, WizKid, Tems, and more.
P!nk, who kicked off the AMAs with the live debut of her latest single “Never Gonna Not Dance Again,” also delivered an emotional tribute performance to the late Olivia Newton-John, who died of breast cancer at 73-years-old in August of 2022.
Stevie Wonder also joined forces with Ari Lennox and Charlie Puth to perform a medley of Lionel Richie’s hit songs in honor of the American Idol judge and former Commodores member, who is the 2022 AMAs Icon Award recipient.
Additionally, Jimmie Allen, Meghan Trainor, Dan + Shay, Dustin Lynch, Ellie Goulding, Jessie James Decker, Kelly Rowland, Kim Petras, Latto, Melissa Etheridge, Sabrina Carpenter and Smokey Robinson, Karreuche Tran, Roselyn Sanchez, Niecy Nash-Betts and Sheryl Lee Ralph, and Liza Koshy were on hand to present during the coveted awards show ceremony.
Hosted by Wayne Brady, the 2022 American Music Awards aired live from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on Nov. 20 at 8/7c on ABC.