When Lionel Richie hits the stage at Billboard's annual showcase at South By Southwest tonight, he'll be joined by Kenny Rogers, a man he calls his "mentor" and "the most important person" in the launching of the second stage of his career.
The two friends will play the 1980 hit "Lady" at ACL Live in Richie's SXSW debut. The ballad was written and produced by Richie and went on to top several Billboard charts, including the coveted Hot 100 and Adult Contemporary charts.
"Because 'Lady' was so huge and it was just our baby together, I couldn't think of another song to do," Richie said in announcing the Austin duet. "He's probably one of the best friends I have in the world… It's very powerful for me to have him on this record. He's really a dear friend and I'm glad I could share this with him. I can't wait to sing with him onstage and tell him thank you in person."
He went on, "I get emotional because there's one person in this whole world that I owe the launch of the second half of my life, and that's Kenny Rogers."
Rogers seconded the praise, telling the story of how 'Lady' came to be in the first place.
"The first time I heard 'Three Times a Lady,' 'Still,' and all of those incredible Commodore songs, I knew there was a connection between R&B music and country music, so I tracked Lionel down and brought him to Vegas," Rogers says. "He played me a small part of 'Lady,' and I fell in love with that song and his writing at that point."
At the Billboard SXSW show, Richie will be joined by other "surprise guests" to be named later. Before the "Easy" icon hits the stage, though, some of the most buzzworthy acts in Austin will be gracing the stage, including The-Dream, Poliça, Wallpaper., and Vintage Trouble.
Richie, whose 10th album "Tuskegee" is scheduled for release on March 26, has created an unforgettable body of work both as a solo artist and as frontman of pioneering '70s soul/funk band the Commodores. "All Night Long (All Night)," "Say You, Say Me," "Hello," and "We Are the World" are just a few of the 22 top 10 hits he's had on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
"Tuskegee" is a collection of many of those hits, but on the album Richie is joined by some of the biggest names in country music including Kenny Rogers, Jason Aldean and Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles. He plans on bringing that spirit of collaboration to SXSW as well.
"It's so great to be a part of a festival that for two decades has helped launch the careers of some important new artists and celebrates iconic artists who have had a lasting impact on the musical landscape," he told Billboard.
Billboard's 2012 SXSW showcase show will begin at 8 p.m. CT on March 14 and is open to festival badge holders. A limited number of non-badge holders will be able to buy tickets at the door as well.