Lionel Richie was close to a "nervous breakdown" after nearly losing his voice.

Lionel Richie was nervous about the surgeries

Lionel Richie was nervous about the surgeries

The 72-year-old singer has reflected on a tough period in the 1990s when he underwent four different surgeries to fix an unknown condition in his throat.

Remembering that period, he told PEOPLE magazine's Black History Month issue: "About as close as you ever would've come to a nervous breakdown...

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

Lionel was diagnosed with diet-induced acid reflux, and he would go on to recover without suffering with it since.

He can still remember meeting a fan during the tough time which helped him keep going.

An elderly Black man pulled him aside on a beach in Jamaica, as Lionel recalled: "He said, 'You must survive because you are our beacon of hope.'

"'If you make it, we know we can make it. If you accomplish, we know we can accomplish.' I was crying."

Meanwhile, the 'All Night Long' hitmaker previously admitted the considered becoming an Episcopal priest before he found fame with The Commodores.

He said: "I left my mom and dad's house to go to university, and I met my Commodore friends there. At the time I was seriously considering being an Episcopal priest."

However, his plan to become a man of the cloth soon became a distant dream when he heard the girls screaming for him in his first show with the band.

He added: "[But] the first time I played with the Commodores, a group of girls screamed. Up until that moment no one, no girl, had ever screamed at me.

"I didn't play basketball, football, baseball. I played on the tennis team, and no girl ever screamed at the tennis court.

"It was right after those girls screamed, I remembered saying to myself, 'I don't think I'm gonna be priest material.'"

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