When you are a child, the world is your playground. Every day, you see something new and exciting, and your imagination runs wild. There is no fear of failure or error, simply fun and excitement. As you get older, this changes. The world becomes smaller, more serious, and less magical… Unless you’re Lionel Ritchie! In his childhood home in New York City, Lionel found a way to bring his wildest fantasies to life: he spent every waking moment hiding in ventilation shafts above nightclubs. From these secret vantage points, he would watch the dancers below him with fascination. So inspired by the rhythm of their bodies and the passion of their movements, Lionel dedicated himself to mastering this art form as an adult. So whether you’re Looking for Love or just love a good Dance Machine, check out these facts about the endearingly eccentric artist behind Dancing on the Ceiling.
He Was Raised By A Single Mom
Lionel’s mother, Colleen Ritchie, worked as a switchboard operator and sang professionally on the side. His father, Edward Ritchie, was an alcoholic who left when he was just 6 years old. After Edward abandoned the family, Colleen was left to raise Lionel and his younger brother, Rodney, alone. This made learning to fend for himself and supporting his family at a very young age an inevitability. At the age of 10, Lionel got his first job in the service industry. He worked as a soda jerk at a drugstore, delivering newspapers on the side. It wasn’t until Lionel was 15 years old that his mother allowed him permission to quit school and work full-time.
He Had To Quit School To Help His Family Out
Even when Lionel was in school, he didn’t like to be there. His teachers described him as a “lazy and dreamy boy” who was always “inventing more interesting things to do” than listen to lectures. While Lionel did have a high IQ and did manage to finish high school, he also had a habit of getting into trouble. He was often caught skipping class and swimming in the school’s indoor pool. It is reported that school administrators transferred him to a school for troubled youth.
He Never Stopped Dancing
Lionel’s love for dancing began when he was just a child growing up in New York City. He loved watching the dancers in the nightclubs below his window, and he often found himself interacting with them as if they were his imaginary friends. When Lionel turned 18, he decided to make dancing his life’s work. He studied at the Arthur Murray Dance Studio and taught dance at the Copacabana in the evenings. Lionel would continue to perform at clubs and on TV throughout his career, but he always loved teaching others how to do what he loved best. He once said, “The most important thing is to love what you do. If you don’t love it, if you aren’t eager to do it, then don’t do it.”
He Was Sent To Juvenile Hall
In the early 1940s, Lionel was caught shoplifting from a music store in New York City. While the items he stole were likely for his own use, the police found them on him with the intention to sell them. Although Lionel was a juvenile at the time, his actions were serious enough to warrant a few months in juvenile hall. While there, he found a friend and mentor in the owner of the music shop he had stolen from. He later said of his time in jail: “My whole life has been a series of starting over.”
His Big Break Came In 1984
Lionel had been trying to make it as a solo artist for years, but he wasn’t getting anywhere. So, he decided to join the band called “The Commodores.” This band was already successful without him, but Lionel’s addition brought them an entirely new level of stardom. They went on to have a huge hit called “Three Times A Lady,” which was inspired by Lionel’s secret passion for ventriloquism. This big break would lead to another big break in Lionel’s career as a solo artist: he wanted to make a music video for his next single. Because his fellow Commodores were not able to be on the set, he was forced to use dancers he had met at a club the night before. This was when Lionel met his future wife, Diane. They would later get married and have three children.
Commodores - Nightshift (Official Music Video)
Since Then, Lionel Has Been On The Ceiling… Always.
After meeting Diane, Lionel had an idea: he wanted to make a music video that involved his dancers and his dancers only. He wanted to use this opportunity to create something that would be remembered for years to come, even if it meant doing it alone. Lionel decided to do the whole music video from the ceiling. He spent the entire shoot climbing, hiding, and balancing on the ceiling of the nightclub where the video was being filmed. The music video for “Staying Alive” would become one of the most iconic videos in history. It also earned Lionel a place in the hearts of many, where he has remained ever since.