Today Lionel Richie is receiving the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.

His list of hit songs is so long I’d run out of time trying to name them all.

Not only has he sold millions of records, he’s become a home goods entrepreneur, an art enthusiast… and, one time, personal clothes shopper for none other than Nelson Mandela.

This was back in February 1990.

Mandela had spent 27 years in prison for his work against the whites-only apartheid governent in South Africa.

He spent years in solitary confinement.

He’d been forced to do hard labor and even contracted tuberculosis, among many other troubles.

And then, South Africa’s government finally bowed to the global pressure and agreed to make changes, including releasing Mandela from the notorious prison at Robben Island.

It was what he and his supporters had wanted for so long, but when you’ve become a global symbol of a civil rights struggle, returning to the outside world isn’t as simple as walking out the prison door.

Mandela even wrote in his autobiography that he’d asked the government for more time to prepare for his release.

The authorities said no, which meant all that prep work had to be done in no time flat.

This is where Lionel Richie comes in.

As he told the CBC in 2012, he heard that Mandela would not only leave prison, he would be headed toward the United States, where his public appearances and TV interviews would get lots of attention.

Richie said high profile supporters had started doing some logistics work for the trip and for Mandela’s new public life – arranging plane trips, setting up places to stay, things like that.

He said he got a call that Mandela would need some clothes.

Richie got a set of measurements for suits, pants and shirts, and a deadline of two days to get it together.

“I decked him out,” Richie said. “My man was looking good!”

But he said the most exciting part was getting to meet Mandela, who thanked him not for his fashion choices but for his music.

He said Richie’s songs had helped him get through life in prison.

Richie said at that point, “I started crying on his shoulder. He just grabbed me like a dad.”

And now that we’ve had some tears, how about some laughs?

This week in Northbrook, Illinois, it’s the 2022 World Clown Association convention, aka the Class Clown Reunion.

It’s actually also a competition, with clowns competing in several clowning categories, both individual and team.

But there are rules, and rule number one is, quote “All clowns will conduct themselves in such a manner as to be a credit and asset to quality clowning.”

So if you’re gonna clown around today, do it right.

Lionel Richie to Receive the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song (Library of Congress)

Lionel Richie on being Nelson Mandela’s stylist (CBC)

World Clown Association 2022 Convention

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Photo by Raph_PH via Flickr/Creative Commons