Lionel Richie is paying tribute to his late friend and country legend, Kenny Rogers. Richie performed the song, "Lady," which Richie wrote for the Country Hall of Fame singer at the 2021 GRAMMY Awards on Sunday.
Richie took the stage, rocking a black suit, and delivered an emotional cover of the iconic 1980 tune, which went on to be one of Rogers' biggest hits.
Richie crooned the tune with a powerful somberness, and concluded with a special message for his late friend, "I miss you, Kenny. I miss you, man."
The touching tribute was part of the show's "In Memoriam" segment -- which also included a video package commemorating the many artists we've lost over the past year.
During the segment, Bruno Mars performed a musical tribute to Little Richard, the Architect of Rock and Roll, while Brandi Carlile performed a tribute to the late country folk singer John Prine.
Richie and Rogers' unlikely friendship started in 1980 when Richie was still with the group the Commodores. Rogers was looking for a power ballad. “I had written Lady for the Commodores, and they didn’t want it,” Richie told People. “’Kenny wants to have the song,’ they told me.” Two weeks later, the song was finished. “When ‘Lady’ came out, it was an explosion onto the music scene.”
The song became a No. 1 hit and just like that, the musicians became the best of pals. “It was a mutual admiration society," Richie added.
Richie looked at Rogers as a mentor and big brother, thanking Rogers for allowing "Lady"to kick off his solo career.
“Everything that happened in my life, truthfully, from that moment on, had a Kenny Rogers stamp on it. I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor. When I was going through everything, leaving the Commodores, trying to be a solo artist, trying to figure out what that means -- he was that guy.”