Category: the commodores

On this day in music history: August 12, 1978 …

On this day in music history: August 12, 1978 – “Three Times A Lady” by The Commodores hits #1 on both the Billboard R&B singles chart for 2 weeks, also topping the Hot 100 for 2 weeks on the same date. It also tops the Adult Contemporary chart for 3 weeks on August 19, 1978. Written by Lionel Richie, it is the fifth R&B and first pop chart topper for the R&B band from Tuskegee, AL. Richie comes up with the concept for the song after witnessing his father express his appreciation for his mother at their 37th wedding anniversary party. Inspired by his father’s moving speech, he reflects on how he hasn’t told his own wife (at the time) Brenda how much he loved and appreciated her, and how many other men have not verbally expressed their feelings for the women in their lives. When Richie plays the song for his band mates, they unanimously agree that it should be included on their next album “Natural High”. The over six and a half minute long track, is trimmed down to three and a half minutes for single release. Issued in late May of 1978, quickly becoming a multi-format smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #73 on June 10, 1978, it climbs to the top of the chart eight weeks later. The song is covered numerous times over the years, including versions by Kenny Rogers, Billy “Crash” Craddock, and Conway Twitty. It is also parodied by comedian Eddie Murphy on an episode of “Saturday Night Live”, where he sings part of the song as Our Gang/Little Rascals character Buckwheat. “Three Times A Lady” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: July 27, 1979 – …

On this day in music history: July 27, 1979 – “Midnight Magic”, the seventh studio album by The Commodores is released. Produced by James Anthony Carmichael and the Commodores, it is recorded at Motown Recording Studios in Hollywood, CA from March – May 1979. Coming off of the huge success of their previous album “Natural High” and their first number one pop single “Three Times A Lady”, The Commodores begin work on their next album in the Spring of 1979. Though all six members of the band contribute songs to the project, it is Lionel Richie who has now emerged as the chief songwriter as his star continues to rise. As the Commodores become more successful, there begins to become concern that they are abandoning their R&B and funk roots for pop crossover acceptance. In spite of this, Richie’s contributions to the project prove to be too strong to turn away. At the time, Lionel observes his childhood friend William “Smitty” Smith and his wife go through a painful break up and eventual divorce. Talking to Smith in detail about what he’s going through, Richie is inspired to write two songs out the conversations they have. The first song and first single release the country flavored “Sail On” (#8 R&B, #4 Pop), deals with the couples realization and eventual acceptance that their romantic relationship and marriage has run its course. The idea is continued the ballad and second single “Still” (#1 R&B, #1 Pop, #1 AC), the now former husband and wife though they have parted ways, and do in fact still love each other and remain friends. The album spins off one further single with “Wonderland” (#21 R&B, #25 Pop) penned by keyboardist Milan Williams. Once released, it is another major hit for the Commodores, and becomes Motown Records best selling album of 1979, selling nearly two million copies in the US alone. “Midnight Magic” spends three weeks at number one on the Billboard R&B album chart, peaking at number three on the Top 200.

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On this day in music history: July 16, 1977 – …

On this day in music history: July 16, 1977 – “Easy” by The Commodores hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 1 week, also peaking at #4 on the Hot 100 on August 27, 1977. Written by Lionel Richie, it is the third R&B chart topper for the band from Tuskegee, AL. Born and raised in Alabama, songwriter and musician Lionel Richie grows up influenced by many different genres of music including R&B, pop and country music. All three musical styles come together when Richie writes the song “Easy”, about a man coming to terms with the end of a relationship. “Easy” is released on March 18, 1977 in advance of The Commodores self-titled fifth album. The pop/soul ballad becomes a multi-format smash, becoming their third number one R&B hit and their biggest pop single to date. The million selling “Easy” takes The Commodores to the next level of success in their career, helping drive sales of the “Commodores” album to 2x Platinum status. Over the years it is covered numerous times by pop, rock and country artists including Clarence Carter, Faith No More and Boyz II Men. Lionel Richie himself covers “Easy” in 2012 with country music icon Willie Nelson, on the duets album “Tuskegee”.

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On this day in music history: July 5, 1975 – &…

On this day in music history: July 5, 1975 – “Slippery When Wet” by The Commodores hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 1 week, also peaking at #19 on the Hot 100 on August 9, 1975. Written by Thomas McClary, it is the first chart topping single for the R&B/Funk band from Tuskegee, AL. After finally hitting the charts in 1974 with their debut album “Machine Gun”, containing the classic title track and the equally funky follow ups “I Feel Sanctified” and “The Zoo (The Human Zoo)”, the Commodores begin work on their sophomore effort with producer James Anthony Carmichael. Written by guitarist Thomas McClary, the firmly in the pocket groove of the slyly provocative “Slippery When Wet” is an obvious stand out from the beginning. With drummer Walter Orange handling nearly all of the lead vocal duties on the previous album, “Slippery” marks the first Commodores single to feature Lionel Richie singing lead, at the suggestion of Motown executive Suzanne DePasse. Released as the first single from “Caught In The Act” in April of 1975, “Slippery When Wet” catches fire quickly. Racing up the R&B chart within ten weeks of its debut, it makes a fast crossover to pop radio, becoming the Commodores second top 40 pop single. The success of the song propels the album into the top ten on the R&B album chart (#7 R&B), and into the top 30 (#26 Pop) on the Billboard Top 200.

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On this day in music history: June 27, 1976 – …

On this day in music history: June 27, 1976 – “Hot On The Tracks”, the fourth album by The Commodores is released. Produced by James Anthony Carmichael and The Commodores, it is recorded at Motown Recording Studios in Hollywood, CA in Early 1976. Building on the momentum of their previous three albums “Machine Gun”, “Caught In The Act” and “Movin’ On” (the latter two both released in 1975), The Commodores return to the studio at the beginning of 1976 to record what becomes their most successful album to date. Though all of the band members contribute to the writing of the album, their fourth release sees Lionel Richie beginning to emerge as a major creative force in the band. Richie writes or co-writes six of the albums nine songs. Upon its release, the album broadens The Commodores rapidly growing fan base, both solidifying their solid R&B following, and setting the stage for the even larger pop crossover success they experience in the coming year and beyond. It spins off the hit singles “Fancy Dancer” (#9 R&B, #39 Pop) and “Just To Be Close To You” (#1 R&B, #7 Pop). “Hot On The Tracks” spends six weeks (non-consecutive) at number one on the Billboard R&B album chart, peaking at number twelve on the Top 200.

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On this day in music history: June 22, 1981 – …

On this day in music history: June 22, 1981 – “In The Pocket”, the ninth studio album by The Commodores is released. Produced by James Anthony Carmichael and the Commodores, it is recorded at Web IV Recording Studios in Atlanta, GA and A&M Studios in Hollywood, CA from Late 1980 – Mid 1981. By late 1980, and after nearly fourteen years together, the writing is on the wall that Lionel Richie is about leave The Commodores for a solo career. With major pop crossover ballads like “Three Times A Lady” and “Still” becoming huge successes for the band, it is a double edged sword for the rest of the Commodores. The other band members feel that those stray far from their R&B and funk roots, along with Lionel becoming the sole focus of public attention also creating tension. Richie’s decision to leave the band is sealed when he scores a major hit outside the band after he writes and produces the chart topping single “Lady” for country music superstar Kenny Rogers. The song had originally been intended for the Commodores, but is rejected by the other members, not wanting to do “another ballad”. The band begin work on their final album with Richie in Fall of 1980, recording mostly in Atlanta, recording overdubs and mixing the record in Los Angeles. It spins off three singles including “Lady (You Bring Me Up)” (#5 R&B, #8 Pop), “Oh No” (#5 R&B, #4 Pop), and “Why You Wanna Try Me?” (#42 R&B, #66 Pop). Originally released on CD in 1993, it is reissued in 2001. The album is remastered by Universal Japan in 2013 as a standard red book CD, and as a high rez SHM-CD. “In The Pocket” peaks at number four on the Billboard R&B album chart, number thirteen on the Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: June 6, 1980 – &…

On this day in music history: June 6, 1980 – “Heroes”, the eighth album by The Commodores is released. Produced by James Anthony Carmichael and The Commodores, it is recorded at Motown Recording Studios and A&M Recording Studios in Hollywood, CA from February – April 1980. Ending the 70’s on a high note with the album “Midnight Magic”, and back to back smashes “Sail On” and “Still”, The Commodores begin work on their next release in early 1980. Looking to shake things up, the band step away somewhat from the slicker pop driven hit formula of their previous three albums. The most noticeable shift is the emphasis on more message oriented songs with a pronounced gospel bent like “Wake Up Children”, the title track “Heroes” (#27 R&B, #54 Pop), “Mighty Spirit” and “Jesus Is Love” (#34 R&B). Though it barely scrapes the R&B Top 40 and is virtually ignored by pop radio, the Lionel Richie penned  The only real taste of The Commodores funk roots on the album surface on the track “Celebrate”. The first single “Old-Fashion Love” (#8 R&B, #20 Pop) is written by Milan Williams, and is the first hit the band’s keyboardist has penned solely since their breakthrough single “Machine Gun” in 1974. The public’s reaction to album is mixed, and though it doesn’t yield a major crossover hit, the momentum from their previous albums pushes “Heroes” past the Platinum mark in the US. Regarded as a transitional release in The Commodores career, many later evaluate it as the bridge from Lionel Richie’s tenure in the band, toward his inevitable departure and launch of his mega successful solo career. Given only a brief release on CD in 1986 (as a 2-fer with their self-titled 1977 album), “Heroes” remains out of print for nearly thirty years in any form. It is finally remastered and reissued by Dutch reissue label PTG Records in 2014. “Heroes” peaks at number three on the Billboard R&B album chart, number seven on the Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: March 30, 1977 -…

On this day in music history: March 30, 1977 – “Commodores”, the fifth album by The Commodores is released. Produced by James Anthony Carmichael and The Commodores, it is recorded at Motown Recording Studios in Hollywood, CA from October 1976 – January 1977. Beginning their rise to fame in 1974 with the single and album “Machine Gun”, The Commodores quickly build on that success. By late 1976, the band begin work on their fifth album. All six band members contribute, with one of its centerpieces coming about during an impromptu jam. While recording, an equipment malfunction brings the session to a halt. Waiting for the problem to be fixed, drummer and singer Walter “Clyde” Orange shows the others an idea he has. Bassist Ronald LaPread begins improvising a bass line with the others falling in. When producer James Anthony Carmichael overhears, he tells them that they should take that riff and write a full song around it. After putting it down on tape, Orange comes up with some lyrics and a melody. The song is titled “Brick House” (#2 R&B, #5 Pop), a euphemism for a voluptuous and curvy woman from the more risque “she’s built like a brick sh*t house”. Taking a copy of the tape home, guitarist and trumpet player Willam “Wak” King plays it for his wife Shirley before going to sleep. As he’s sleeping, she writes more lyrics gives them to her husband the next morning. The others are unaware of Shirley King’s contribution, and goes uncredited for many years afterward. Also during the sessions, LaPread’s wife Kathy Faye is ill with cancer and passes away during the recording of the album. Wanting to honor her, Lionel Richie and Ronald write the moving ballad “Zoom”, with its lyrics speaking of going to a place where one’s purpose and full potential in life can be realized. Sung by Richie, and though it isn’t released as a single in the US, it becomes one of The Commodores most popular songs. The band also dedicate the album in memory of Kathy Faye. Another contribution from Lionel is “Easy” (#1 R&B, #4 Pop), writing about the break up of a relationship set against the back drop of the band’s hometown Tuskegee, AL. Released in the Spring of 1977, “Commodores” with the one two punch of the laid back “Easy” and ultra funky “Brick House”, becomes their most successful album, earning a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo, Group or Chorus for “Easy”. The album cover is the first to feature The Commodores now famed band logo designed by artist Tom Nikosey. The original vinyl LP also comes with an over sized poster of the band. Originally released on CD in 1992, it is remastered and reissued by Universal Japan in 2019. Out of print on vinyl since the late 80’s, it is remastered in 2017, with a limited run on translucent blue vinyl as well as standard black vinyl. “Commodores” spends eight weeks (non-consecutive) at number one on the Billboard R&B album chart, peaking at number three on the Top 200.

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On this day in music history: March 16, 1985 -…

On this day in music history: March 16, 1985 – “Nightshift” by The Commodores hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 4 weeks, also peaking at #3 on the Hot 100 on April 20, 1985. Written by Walter Orange, Dennis Lambert and Franne Golde, it is the seventh and final chart topper for the R&B band from Tuskegee, AL. Following Lionel Richie’s departure from The Commodores for a solo career in 1982 (taking longtime producer James Anthony Carmichael with him), the band suffer another setback with the sudden passing of their manager Benny Ashburn, who had guided The Commodores to fame. When the bands’ first post-Richie album (ironically titled “13”) produces no major hits, they look to regroup and re-claim their earlier success. Before starting work on their next album, they recruit former Heatwave vocalist J.D. Nicholas as a second lead singer. The Commodores are paired with veteran producer Dennis Lambert (The Righteous Brothers, The Four Tops) to work on their fourteenth album. Lambert and co-writer Franne Golde are just fresh off the success of having penned former Temptation Dennis Edwards’ R&B solo smash “Don’t Look Any Further”. The pair collaborate with drummer and singer Walter Orange. While discussing song ideas, Orange, Lambert and Golde hit upon the idea of writing a tribute song honoring R&B legends Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson, both of whom had passed away earlier in 1984. The concept of the song in part also comes from The Righteous Brothers’ 1974 comeback hit “Rock & Roll Heaven” (written by Alan O’Day and John Stevenson), which had also paid tribute to departed rock musicians, and had also been produced by Dennis Lambert. The trio finish writing the song in two days, and go into the studio to cut the track. Recorded at Soundcastle Studios in Los Angeles, the band are augmented with various studio musicians including Rufus drummer John Robinson, songwriter and producer Peter Wolf (synthesizer), Paul Jackson, Jr. (guitar), and Paulihno Da Costa (percussion). Orange shares lead vocals with Nicholas on the track. Released as a single in January of 1985, it is an instant smash, giving The Commodores their biggest hit since “Oh No” (#5 R&B, #4 Pop) in late 1981. “Nightshift” wins the band their only Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal in 1986.

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On this day in music history: November 17, 197…

On this day in music history: November 17, 1979 – “Still” by The Commodores hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week, also topping the R&B singles chart for 1 week on November 24, 1979. Written by Lionel Richie, it is the second chart topping single for the R&B band from Tuskegee, AL. Riding a huge wave of success after scoring their first number one pop single with “Three Times A Lady” the year before, The Commodores re-enter the studio in the early part of 1979 to begin recording their seventh studio album. Once again, showing his gift for writing heartfelt and emotional ballads, Richie writes “Still” as a companion piece to “Sail On”, the first single from the bands’ “Midnight Magic” album. Just as “Sail On” is inspired by the break up of a close childhood friends’ marriage, “Still” deals the aftermath of that break up. The songs’ narrative finds the couple realizing that even though their romantic relationship has ended, that they remain bonded to each other as friends. It becomes an instant favorite at radio when stations begin playing the nearly six minute long album cut, with some making their own edits. Its popularity grows so quickly that Motown is forced to rush release it in mid September of 1979, as “Sail On” is still rising up the pop and R&B charts. Entering the Hot 100 at #68 on September 29, 1979, it races to the top of the chart seven weeks later. Both “Still” and “Sail On” both briefly reside in the Top 10 at the same time, with “Sail On” holding at its peak position of number four for a second week on October 20, 1979, while “Still” pole vaults from #38 to #10 that same week. “Still” is The Commodores fourth million selling single in the US.