Country hitmaker Chris Stapleton was one of many musicians who honored R&B icon Lionel Richie recently during a pre-taped PBS special titled, Lionel Richie: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.
To pay tribute to Richie's prosperous music career, the soulful singer took center stage to tackle his beloved single "Say You, Say Me." Stapleton's chill-provoking pipes stunned the live audience as he dominated each tender note penned by Richie.
"As we go down | Life's lonesome highway| Seems the hardest thing to do | Is to find a friend or two | That helping hand, someone who understands | That when you feel you lost your way | You've got someone there to say | I'll show you," delivered Stapleton with passion.
A full-set band and a two-person choir backed Stapleton's distinct vocals. Throughout the remarkable rendition, the "Starting Over" artist maintained eye contact with Richie to show appreciation for his artistry. The decorated singer-songwriter gave Stapleton his nod of approval by singing along, dancing in his seat, and by taking a grand bow at the end of the performance.
Richie wrote and recorded "Say You, Say Me" for old-world drama, "White Nights." Upon release in 1985, the ballad graced the top of the R&B singles chart and quickly became Richie's ninth No.1 on Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart.
Host Anthony Anderson invited several other A-listers into the spotlight. Such as – Gloria Estefan, Miguel, Boyz II Men, Andra Day, Yolanda Adam, Garth Brooks, and fellow "American Idol" judge Luke Bryan to sing songs from his impressive catalog.
"All of these artists walk on stage, and they start singing these songs, and a lot of times I say to them, 'I am so happy God gave me those songs first,'" the man of the hour shared during the ceremony. "It's very sobering when people actually acknowledge that not only do they like your songs, but they know all the lyrics."
"You know how we all have bad days. I wake up...I have a bad day, and then I tell myself that somewhere, Lionel Richie ain't having a bad day. So, you better have a good day," Bryan jokingly said ahead of his act. "To be here for nights like this means the world to me, wouldn't miss it for the world. This guy is everything you believe he is, I promise you. So, I'm honored to be here," the country crooner concluded.
According Library of Congress, the prestigious accolade "celebrates the work of an artist whose career reflects lifetime achievement in promoting song as a vehicle of musical expression and cultural understanding."
The star-studded night was filmed at DAR Constitutional Hall in Washington, D.C., on March 9. Following the special celebration, Richie was named as an inductee into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.