Lionel Richie may have been an R&B and pop icon, but on Tuesday night (Dec. 26), he’s set to be remembered with something a little bit more country. At the 40th Annual Kennedy Center Honors, friend and country singer Luke Bryan will honor Richie by performing two of his songs on stage.
Richie is one of five to be honored at the Kennedy Center this year, with others including rapper LL Cool J, singer and actress Gloria Estefan, writer and producer Norman Lear, and actor, dancer, and choreographer Carmen de Lavallade.
The honors look to showcase the careers and works of artists who have impacted culture, music, and life in a large way. “Each of this year’s honorees became known to and loved by the world because of their complete originality and bold genius,” says Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter, per Rolling Stone.
And while Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan may not initially seem like an obvious musical pairing, the two have actually teamed up more than once in the past. In 2013, the two initially paired up for a performance at a CMT Artists of the Year event, and most notably the pair won a CMT Music Award for their mashup of Richie’s songs “Oh No” and “All Night.” Recently, Richie and Lionel have been working side-by-side as judges on the everlasting American Idol.
Bryan, a longtime Richie fan, told Universal Music Group that honoring Richie will be one of the biggest honors of his life.
“Nobody, in my opinion is more deserving than Lionel when you look at his whole body of work as a singer-songwriter, as a band member, as an individual artist, as what he was able to do with charitable stuff through his year,” says Bryan. “I mean Lionel has always been himself and he embodies certainly what the Kennedy Center Honors is looking for, and the fact that I can stand there on that stage and sing songs from my childhood and my life to one of my heroes in that setting is something I will never forget.”
Bryan is set to sing two of Richie’s biggest hits, “Penny Lover” and “Sail On” — the latter a Hot 100 top five hit for The Commodores, the band Richie fronted throughout the 70’s and 80’s. To see the performance, check out CBS on Tuesday at 9:00 p.m.