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Lionel Richie's mysterious health battle that almost cost him his voice revealed

The American Idol star came close to a 'nervous breakdown'

american idol lionel richie

Lionel Richie is one of the biggest stars on the planet and has produced hit songs including Hello, Dancing on the Ceiling, and All Night Long.

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But there was a time when he worried his career could come crashing down during the height of his solo success in the 90s. Lionel was secretly battling a mysterious illness that saw him undergo multiple surgeries on his throat which he feared would cost him his singing voice.

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Not only was his health an issue, but Lionel was also in the middle of a difficult divorce from his first wife, Brenda Harvey, and was caring for his sick father, Lionel Richie Sr., who passed away in 1990 at the age of 75.

The stress of it all took its toll on Lionel, who admitted his illness almost led to a "nervous breakdown" after he was told by doctors that he could lose his singing voice.

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"About as close as you ever would've come to a nervous breakdown," he told People of that trying time. The 72-year-old went on to have four surgeries in four years on his throat.

lionel richie© Photo: Getty Images

Lionel feared he would lose his voice at the height of his career

"You don't want anybody fooling around down there. This is your identity," he said of the procedures. "I never really thought that it would end."

Thankfully, doctors were able to pinpoint the cause of Lionel's discomfort, diagnosing him with diet-induced acid reflux that was affecting his throat. He went on to make a full recovery and hasn't suffered from the condition since.

american idol judges© Photo: Getty Images

Lionel stars on American Idol with Katy Perry and Luke Bryan

Speaking of his illness in 2012, Lionel admitted that he questioned who he would be without his ability to sing and make music.

"I have been through four surgeries, vocal surgeries. And while you're sitting there in silence, the question comes up, 'Who am I? Who am I really?'" he told Piers Morgan. "Without this voice... who are you really? And as an artist, you are defined by your voice."

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