Just after Lionel Richie took home the Icon Award at the 2022 American Music Awards on Sunday (Nov. 20), Stevie Wonder and Charlie Puth took to the Microsoft Theater stage to pay a lengthy tribute to the superstar.
Appearing on the stage at a set of dueling pianos, the pair engaged in what Puth referred to onstage as a “musical tennis match of Lionel Richie copyrights” — essentially, ping-ponging off each other, performing hits from Richie’s vast catalog.
Wonder started off by throwing it all the way back to Commodores with his rendition of “Three Times A Lady” — though even after some adorable crowd participation, he relented, saying, “It still don’t sound as good as Lionel.” Puth countered with a song in Richie’s “best key” of A-flat major (“I know that’s the most ‘me’ thing to say ever,” Puth quipped), which turned out to be “Easy” also by the Commodores.
The two went back and forth for a while, before eventually landing on one of the biggest hits from Richie’s pen, “We Are The World” with Michael Jackson. Much like that original celebrity-packed jam, the stage filled with stars, including Ari Lennox, Muni Long, Melissa Etheridge, Jimmie Allen, Yola, Smokey Robinson and more. As everyone belted the lyrics out, Richie couldn’t help but rush up onto the stage to perform with the group.
In a message to “young superstars” during his acceptance speech for the Icon Award, Richie said, “When you hear the word ‘hip,’ it means today. When you hear the word ‘inspiring,’ it means forever. If you get a chance to have that light on you, understand what God has in store.”