Richie got his start in the Commodores, writing most of their hits in the late 1970s, including "Three Times a Lady" and "Still". By 1980 , though, the media had begun to focus on Richie and he left to embark on a solo career the next year. That year his duet with Diana Ross "Endless Love" from the film of the same name spent ten weeks atop Billboard's pop chart.
Weeks prior to the end of the 1984 Summer Olympics, Los Angeles promoters announced that the closing ceremonies would feature a surprise guest. Many speculated that it would be Michael Jackson. The secret was kept right up until the climax of the ceremonies, when the spotlight hit Richie. He performed "All Night Long" to a live television audience of 2.3 billion viewers.
In 1985, Richie worked with Michael Jackson on "We Are the World", recorded as part of USA for Africa. His next big success was in 1986, with Dancing on the Ceiling. Compared to the previous two efforts, Dancing on the Ceiling didn't sell as well and Richie retired one year later.
In 1990, Richie and his first wife formally adopted 9 year old Nicole Escovedo. The child of Richie band member Peter Escovedo III, brother of Sheila E, and a woman identified only as an assistant on Richie's 1980 world tour, Nicole had been living with them since she was 3. She is best known as the best friend of heiress Paris Hilton, and co-star of the reality series The Simple Life. Michael Jackson is her godfather.