How many times have you heard a songwriter say that the inspiration for one of their greatest songs came in the shower? But the toilet? Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Lionel Richie finally confirmed a long-running story about the latrine-spiration for the second verse of “Lady,” the hit 1980 song he wrote for pal Kenny Rogers.
Back in 2014, Rogers told the Today Show that when the two stars were in the studio working on the song he asked where the lyrics for the second verse were and someone said, “Lionel’s in the toilet writing them right now.” The rest is history, as the song spent six weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
And now, in an interview on Thursday’s (March 30) Drew Barrymore Show, Richie confirmed the story. The American Idol judge explained that after Rogers asked him to write a song for him he began work on a “Lady” as well as a second track called “Goin’ Back to Alabama” (which later appeared on Rogers’ 1981 Share Your Love album).
Halfway through the sessions for “Alabama,” Richie told Barrymore that Rogers changed his mind and said, “‘I don’t want to sing that song. I think I want to do ‘Lady’ first.'” What Rogers didn’t know, though, was that Richie had only gotten the first verse of “Lady” written at that point.
“I said, ‘Excuse me for a minute. Let me, uh, go to the bathroom,'” Richie said he told Rogers, who died in 2020 at age 81. “I’m sitting in the stall writing the second verse to ‘Lady.'” Barrymore was shocked that Lionel could so quickly produce such a massive hit under such pressure and Richie said you’d be surprised when, and where, inspiration can strike.
“You will do some amazing things when you’re scared to death,” he said. “The idea of telling Mr. Rogers that I don’t have the second verse was not going to happen in my lifetime.”
Watch Richie talk about his “Lady” session below.