ABC/Craig SjodinLionel Richie and his music will be honored this year at the 23rd annual Power of Love Gala, taking place in Las Vegas on March 16. Muhammad Ali‘s widow, Lonnie Ali, will be honored along with Richie that night — and as it happens, this Sunday’s edition of American Idol will feature Lionel’s own memories of the late, great boxing legend.
The episode features auditions taking place in Louisville, Kentucky, where Ali was born. That gave Richie the opportunity to share his memories of The Greatest.
“Muhammad Ali was an incredible icon to the world but also we were great friends,” Lionel tells ABC Radio. “So he gave me some great life lessons in terms of getting knocked down and standing back up and, y’know, when you face adversity, you turn around and say, ‘I can do this.'”
He adds, “And as a young kid growing up in America, I needed one of those guys to show me, and he was that shining example.”
So when American Idol hit Louisville for auditions, Richie says, he went to visit Ali’s birthplace.
“It was one of those crying moments,” he adds. “But he was a real hero to me and I’m so happy we put him on the show.”
You’ll be able to watch the whole thing unfold this Sunday night on ABC, starting at 8 p.m. ET.
The Power of Love gala is put on each year by the charity Keep Memory Alive, which raises money for programs at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health.
Some of the stars who’ll be on hand to help pay tribute to Richie include Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross of ABC’s black-ish, Miguel, Snoop Dogg, Ne-Yo, Marisa Tomei and Leona Lewis.
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