“Well my friends, the time has come…” for us to commemorate a very recognisable lyric and a chart anniversary for Lionel Richie. On 12 November, 1983, ‘All Night Long (All Night)’ completed its climb to the top of the Billboard Hot 100, on its way to becoming one of the anthems of his career.
Written by Richie and co-produced by him with James Carmichael, ‘All Night Long’ had been moving up the US pop chart since mid-September, and was already in the midst of a seven-week run at No. 1 on the R&B survey. 32 years ago on this date, it started a four-week pop reign, seizing the crown from Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton’s ‘Islands In The Stream.’ On the R&B chart, Motown’s strong end to the year would continue when Richie was followed to the summit by DeBarge’s ‘Time Will Reveal.’
‘All Night Long’ was one of the many hits from Can’t Slow Down, Lionel’s second solo album, which itself was an absolute sales juggernaut, certified ten-times platinum in America in just over two years, by the end of 1985. By some distance the bestselling album of Richie’s stellar career, its estimated worldwide sales are now some 20 million.
Recorded at Ocean Way Studios on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles in the spring of 1983, the track featured such celebrated players as Greg Phillinganes on synthesisers, Paulinho da Costa on percussion, and a team of backing vocalists that included a then-unknown Richard Marx.
As for the Jamaican-style chant that had Richie and the chorus singing “Tom bo li de say di moi ya, yeah, jambo, jumbo,” what did it mean? Writer Paul Sexton asked Lionel that very question in an interview for pop weekly Record Mirror at the time of the single’s success. “If you go back and try to find out what it means,” he said, “it’s like most of Bob Marley’s chants. They don’t really mean anything, but you know what they mean — you know what I’m saying? It’s an old Jamaican chant."