Genius of Western Culture – Lionel Richie Essay

Introduction

Fiero analyzes some issues related to modernism and tradition. In his 2011 book about Humanistic Tradition, he gives a broader definition of both the Age of Modernism and the Age of Pluralism (Fiero, 2011). According to Fiero, the age of pluralism comes before the age of modernism and falls within the period of late twentieth century to mid twenty first century. In the period, life is a little more backward as compared to modern day civilization. Man tries to understand his surroundings.

With colonial rule still eminent in some parts of the universe, man is still struggling with identity issues. Conflicts that arise from the same are very rampant. Regions are still closed and the universe appears literally bigger than it actually is. Animosity still rules with people having divided opinions. This is arguably the reason as to why it is referred to as the age of pluralism.

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One region is Africa, another, America and so on and so forth. Other regions are identified in terms of race with whites assuming that they are superior. Studies show that they are interested in keeping their superiority forever. Later on, as the century progresses, movements from various parts of the world begin to take baby steps in opposing the status quo.

This characterizes the beginning of a major transition that is bound to rock the entire universe and make the world a global village. Developments that gave birth to modern day civilization kicked off in some parts of the universe as the century concluded but the world is yet to appreciate the fact that change is in the horizon.

The age of modernism is the time that herald the age of pluralism. It is characterized by major scientific inventions, with cultural changes being evident. This period brings change that its predecessor had only hinted. The period, which constitutes this age, is not known but it begins from mid twenty first century to date, with predictions of its continuity and finality still not known. Life in this period could be termed as both easy and difficult. The whole world has seamlessly turned out to be a global village just as depicted in the pluralism age. With a click of a button, one accesses various parts of the world that are millions of miles away.

Harvie Christopher puts it in his 1994 book, The rise of regional Europe, that technological innovations have succeeded in unifying the whole world (Harvie, 1994). However, not all is rosy. For those who stay in the other side of the digital divide, the world is as big as it was at creation time. This applies also applies to those who believe in creation theory. Villages in major parts of Africa and Asia fall within this category and changes in terms of culture. Change takes place at such a slow pace with some regions remaining utterly unchanged to this date. Inability to change in these societies have always caused conflicts in the past, with some of their cultural practices being termed by international agencies and human rights bodies as inhuman. It is noteworthy that in every subsection of the world, there was initially a civilization and of course a culture. With cultures fighting for survival, some practices are abolished and others that are considered superior persist. Those considered powerful are assimilated by societies whose cultures are believed to be inferior.

In such a society, defining what culture is becomes difficult. This is specifically so because of eminent transition. What is fashionable today would not be fashionable tomorrow. This has often given rise to the mostly used term referred to as old school. It follows naturally that many things become old school so fast. Language is changing because pidgins that once characterized people of different regions is fast fading away.

The whole transition period is just chaotic. Living in such an era requires more than just life itself, especially for those who tested pluralism age and are now in the heart of modernism. Therefore, to find an individual who have stood out as a figure of culture and has represented both generations becomes so hard. By traversing the fields of music, poetry, film and even education, many iconic figures are met. All of the superstars have made an impact as far as cultural change is concerned. Nevertheless, very few can be termed as the genius of western culture. This now leads us to an individual who has worked hard to make his music and art relevant in both the ages. The man is Lionel Brockman Richie, Jr.

His life and times

Lionel Richie, as popularly known, was born in the city of Alabama in June 20, 1949. Therefore, this automatically quantifies him as having lived in the age of pluralism. He is a singer, songwriter, musician and producer. Richie bumped into the music industry in 1968 as a member of the musical group referred to as Commodores. He made his solo debut in 1982 with the hit called track truly.

From then, his music has always been appreciated. His songs reflect cultural changes in the American society, which largely continues to influence cultural changes and practices in other parts of the world. Lionel has made his music relevant across generations. Initially, his songs done majorly in soul and blues genre had inspired many and after realizing that the market was changing, the market in this case study is culture, Richie turned his effort into capturing the young market by turning from the blues genre into the Rand Bs. To capture yet another wider market, Richie introduced the reggae versions and rock versions in order to capture the whole world in its entirety. There is absolutely no country where this great icon is not known.

Lionel Richie’s life is that of an individual who has found himself in a changing society and is therefore trying hard to find place in new setting. The fact that Richie could not stay in a marriage and had to divorce Brenda Harvey after 17 years explains the complexity of transition. They adopted a daughter named Nicole Camille Escovedo. It is at this time that he started affecting the lives of many. To this day, his relationship with Nicole has always acted as an epitome of an ideal life faced with many parents all over the western world.

Lionel Richie, whether knowingly or unknowingly has always played a key role of necessitating transition. He cuts across races. Despite being black, Richie interacts with other white musicians. He has shared stages with purely white groups and musicians such as West life, Boys to Men, Celine Dion among many others. He has the highest popularity in the Arab world.

Lionel Richie’s ideas and artistic works recognized as reflecting genius

Lionel Richie’s works generally reflect genius. The lyrics in most of his songs can be taken both literally and figuratively. His 1984 hit song ‘Hello’ is categorically stated as pure genius. In this song, Richie talks of a little blind woman with whom she is in love. Her blindness however puts little Richie in bewilderment. This leaves him to guise whether the woman was going to accept him or not. This was worsened by the condition of the woman. Simply put, Richie uses his voice to woo the blind woman despite of her inability to see.

This song has received many criticisms. It is however, on most occasions, played just as any other love song. Taking the lyrics of this song figuratively, as a history and a literature student, Richie refers to the youth of the 1980s as little blind woman. Her blindness is derived from the sense that so many changes occurred without being noted. The youths did not comprehend the changes happening around them. They only had the ability to perceive roughly and not analyze the situation. The pop culture is setting foot in America and so many youths are attracted to this fantastic outfit. To achieve this, they will have to sacrifice much. Without knowing, many end up being drug pushers on the streets simply because they were attracted to the colorful overview of the lifestyle.

In most of his works, Lionel Richie uses figurative language. Collaborating with such artists as Michael Jackson and Akon gives the notion that he is an individual who fits the two periods perfectly and can integrate his old ideas to the current setting. Few people would actually do that. Many individuals like Richie because he does not discriminate either the white race or the Asians.

He appreciates cultural diversity and upholds its tenets. This implies that the singer understands the struggles in life that have made the US one of the strongest states in the US. It is out of cultural and ethnic conflicts that the US gained its status. The minorities such as Arabs and Africans played an important role in pushing for independence. The minorities participated in the American Civil War fully. They wanted to liberate themselves.

Appraisal of the Lionel Richie’s impact on the arts and culture

To conclude, Richie is an iconic figure in the music industry and without knowing, we all have at one time appreciated his music and work. His songs are well written and lyrics flow from stanza to stanza. Whether taken literally or figuratively, his songs will always be relevant and in fact, they are always open to criticism and evaluation. The videos of his works clearly reveal the time line within which they were shot.

From the dimly lit and poorly shot videos of the Commodores to the flashy videos he did with the likes of Akon and the late pop icon Michael Jackson, a great difference is noted. It shows that the world is changing at a very high rate. Everything is changing not only culture. Even the way people do business in the modern world is different.

Many transactions are conducted online. Rarely do people move around the world looking for goods and services. Nearly everything is ordered through the internet. It is not surprising that even social relationships and interactions are enhanced through the internet. Twitter and face book are others form of technology that have affected the way people behave. Conversely, there is no secrecy in the modern world. The modern world can be termed as risky since an individual is closely monitored. Richie is appreciate because he is able to balance his life, having lived in both ages that is, traditional and modern.

The only pitfall in most of his works is that his videos rarely relate to a story happening in society. This means that he aims at entertaining people instead of conveying an important message. In most of his early videos, Richie would always present himself as an entertainer. Through entertaining, he could display some issues affecting society in a manner that could affect any individual in society.

The video would help depict the kind of society. Briefly, Lionel Richie is the man to beat and will forever continue to represent the turbulent transition from the age of pluralism to the age of modernism. He changes tact smoothly without causing friction from one song genre to another. The ease with which he changes his song writing style to fit the 21st century is marvelous. His songs and any other song written by him are recommended to readers (Bailey, 2000)

References

Bailey, D. (2000). Balkan Prehistory: Exclusions, Incorporation and Identity. London: Routledge Publishers.

Fiero, G.K. (2011). The Humanistic Tradition (6th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw Hill.

Harvie, C. (1994). The rise of regional Europe. London: Routledge.

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