According to ABC's John Berman, "grown Iraqi men get misty-eyed by the mere mention" of Lionel Richie's name.
So I get sent a link to this story on ABC's Nightline on Friday. John Berman of ABC recently spent a few weeks in Baghdad, and has spent a lot of time over there since the war. He reports that one of the biggest pop stars in Iraq is none other than Lionel Richie. People who can't speak English can sing "Hello," word for word.
Now, I know the ABC guys over there pretty well (though Berman and I have never met) and I have incredible respect for them. But this is something — even having been over there numerous times myself — that I had never heard. So I called up Neal Carruth, NPR's current Baghdad producer, to check it out. After a few minutes of running through the latest trials of being there — car bombs, close calls, etc. — I tell him the real reason I had called. "Is this true?" "Absolutely," he said. He had heard ABC was working on the story and checked it out himself, talking to Iraqis about Lionel.
According to the piece, Lionel is popular throughout the Arab world. In April he played a concert in Libya for Muammar Qaddafi. He also said he'd love to play Baghdad on his upcoming world tour if possible.
The roots of the insurgency are becoming ever more clear.