While he is now offering up incredible feedback to singing hopefuls on American IdolLionel Richie recalls that he once also had people that he looked at for some words of wisdom.

“I had the best mentors ever because they were right down the hall,” the 70-year-old told Closer Weekly and other reporters at the American Idol premiere press event earlier this week. “There’s Marvin Gaye and there’s Stevie Wonder and there’s Berry Gordy and then you’ve got your you guys outside. I mean there’s Bob Marley down the hall.”

“We all started at the same time and so it was an interesting class,” the singer continued. “When we walked in, they had the best songwriters in the business. That’s Smokey Robinson. I mean, give me a break. So when you got ready to write a song and you had a problem, they just kind of walk in and go, ‘little brother, that’s not right. You need …’ And I love that word, ‘little brother.’ Because back then I was the kid. … But then you grew into Hollywood. That’s Henry Mancini.”

Stevie Wonder Lionel Richie
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“Sitting right there giving you advice on orchestration, Quincy Jones,” the Grammy winner gushed. “I mean, think about it. It was the best ever. You know? And so what we trying to do now, the reason I’m on this show, somebody’s got to pass the baton to the next ones because they think they have it down, but they don’t know the … It’s a little thing here. It’s a little, it’s not just how loud you can sing. It’s a whole survival package.”

Stevie Wonder
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When Lionel isn’t focusing on music or his career, he is of course all about his top priority: his children, Nicole, Miles and Sophie. “The humbling part about all these successes is that my name at the end of the day is Dad and Papa,” he once exclusively told Closer Weekly at an event to help raise money for Alzheimer’s research. “There is a family of people who are going to be in that room with you on the last days of your life … If you made sure they’re there for you and love you, that’s a great achievement, and everything else is icing on the cake.”

American Idol premieres Sunday, February 16.