The 58-year-old Grainge, who hails from England and began working in the music industry at 17 years old, joined Universal Music in 1986 and became its chairman and CEO in 2011. The list of mega-stars he's worked with includes Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Elton John, The Rolling Stones, Taylor Swift and U2, among many others.
After opening remarks by Ellen K, Mendes took the podium to a chorus of screaming fans. “I love you, first of all,” he said to Grainge, before revealing he was initially “terrified” to meet him.
“I learned how much he cared about artistry and, even more than that, how much he cared about the person standing right in front of him,” said Mendes of that first meeting. “He cared about me and my values and what I believed in and my dreams.” Turning directly to Grainge, Mendes -- who started in the music industry when he was just 15 years old -- continued, “Thank you, Lucian, a million times, for making my dreams come true but, even more, thank you for being there for me as a kid and as a person.”
After Mendes, Richie took the stage with a huge smile and spoke about how difficult it is for an artist to become a star, but how much harder it is for an executive to match that status. “To be an executive and make it to a star, you have to be a magician,” he said. “Very few get to last a long time in the business. Lucian, I don’t know what the hell you’re doing, but you managed to not only stay around, but you happened to have made the top of the grade.” In a playful moment, Richie then asked Grainge to choose a song -- any song -- and to sing a few notes into the microphone. Without hesitation, Grainge took the mic and immediately sang the title lyric to Richie’s Grammy-winning 1984 single “Hello.”
As his wife and daughters seated near the stage beamed proudly, Grainge took the stage next, seemingly overwhelmed and in awe. “Wow, this is so cool. This is amazing,” he said. He opened by noting that before leaving the house that morning, he had Googled how far it is from the British suburb he’d grown up in to Vine Street in Hollywood (the answer: 5,471 miles).
“If you told me when I was growing up in that small house that one day I’d find myself here looking out at all of you, I would have said, ‘You’re nuts,’” said Grainge, who went on to note his passion for the work. “For as long as I can remember," he continued, "I just loved music.”
Grainge went on to shout out his Universal executives, calling them “the best team the music business has ever seen” and that working with Universal artists was “an opportunity and a privilege.” He noted he was thrilled with his star's location at the base of the Capitol Records Building, a placement he views as a tribute to Universal artists. Later turning to face his family, Grainge said he owes his deepest strength to them. “Nobody makes it in life on their own and I owe you so much,” he said. Immediately following his speech, Grainge’s star was unveiled and his family, artists and executives gathered around for photos.
“It’s amazing because it is completely unimaginable to have this accolade which is perpetual and permanent,” Grainge said of the Hollywood Walk of Fame honor. “Generally speaking, I don’t really speak. I keep quiet. I have no desire to take any of the limelight away from the real talent, which is the people that write and perform it, but this is about all of us. This is to their credit as well that we’ve all achieved something as a group and as a company. It’s fantastic.”
Grainge -- who was knighted in 2016 -- then spoke about what both his father Cecil and deceased older brother Nigel Grainge who, founded Ensign Records and discovered Sinead O’Connor and The Boomtown Rats, would think of his Walk of Fame honor.
“When I say the word ‘unimaginable,’ I mean it, probably, literally,” he said. “They’d never have thought it possible. However, one of the things that gives me the greatest pleasure is my father sold records in a radio and TV shop after the Second World War, and he used to import records, put them in the carousel ... and I have got records that my father sold in the Capitol Records sleeve which was a picture of this building in purple from the mid '50s. He’s up there somewhere looking down and thinking, ‘How on earth did that happen?’ Because I’m down here also thinking the same thing.”
On her way into a private reception following, Ellen K opened her eyes wide and remarked on the "massive" celebrity turnout. "I've never seen so many stars show up to a Walk of Fame ceremony before," she said.