Four-time Grammy winner Lionel Richie, who will be honored with the 2016 MusiCares Person of the Year at Monday’s 58th annual Grammy Awards, doesn’t think black performers should boycott the Oscars.
“I don’t think it’s necessary,” Richie told us at an event promoting his new home collection. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which hosts the Feb. 28 Oscar ceremony, is under fire this year for a lack of racial diversity among its nominees.
“I think what you do is you show up, you show your face, you show up and by the way, if you can’t find a role, create a role,” he said. “If you can’t find a movie, write a movie. Come on! Let’s take charge here. What’s that great line? The only way to predict the future is create it. That’s where I am.”
In 1985, Richie won an Oscar for his song “Say You, Say Me,” on the “White Nights” soundtrack. The former Commodores frontman was also nominated for an Oscar in 1981 for “Endless Love” and again in 1986 for “The Color Purple.” He says patience is the key.
“Let me tell you about the Academy,” he told us. “Should there be more roles for blacks? Yes, without a doubt, but the Academy will make you earn it.”
He cites two white directors as examples of individuals who paid their dues.
“For example Scorsese heard ‘and the winner is’ and not him for how long? Or Spielberg?” he said.
Spielberg finally won Best Director in 1993 for “Schindler’s List,” 15 years after first being nominated for “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” Scorcese has been nominated for 12 Oscars and won once.
Reflecting on his own experience, Richie says “ ‘Color Purple’ was nominated 11 times, lost 11 times. What they do is, when you think you’ve earned it, they’ll make you wait two more times.”
The notion that black people are underrepresented in Hollywood isn’t completely lost on Richie.
“I understand the protest,” he said. “At the same time, give (the Academy) a body of work.”
Richie definitely won’t be boycotting the Grammys and the MusiCares Person of the Year.
“I’m still alive! That’s my big joke with them — ‘You mean you want to give this to me while I’m still breathing?’” he joked. “This was one of those honors where I didn’t see it coming.”