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Commodores

Renowned for the R&B hits "Just to Be Close to You," "Easy," and "Brickhouse," to name but a few, Commodores were one of the top bands during their long tenure at Motown. The group is credited with seven number one songs and a host of other Top Ten hits on the Billboard charts, and their vast catalog includes more than 50 albums.

The members of Commodores, all of whom attended Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, came together as a result of two groups disbanding: the Mystics and the Jays. Initially formed to simply play music as a pastime and to meet girls, the lineup consisted of William King (trumpet), Thomas McClary (guitar), Ronald LaPread (bass), Walter "Clyde" Orange (drums), Lionel Richie (saxophone), and Milan Williams (keyboards). The members nearly went stir-crazy trying to pick a name for the group, but with no success. As a last resort, Orange gave King a dictionary and told him to pick a name -- that name was the Commodores. With Clyde Orange the only learned musician in the group, Commodores began spreading their music throughout their base, which included Tuskegee, Montgomery, and Birmingham, AL.

After success securing dates in their own backyard, the band ventured to New York City for a gig at Smalls Paradise. Told, in so many words by the club owner, that their sound was not happening, the self-contained band was nevertheless called back to the club to fill in for a last-minute cancellation. That night the Tuskegee alumni performed before a standing-room-only crowd -- most of which were friends and family of the band. Unaware of the planned crowd, the owner booked the band for two more weeks.

Commodores' long association with Motown began as a result of a tour opening for the Jackson 5. That opportunity occurred in 1971, when the group auditioned in New York City for an unknown yet high-profile gig. Two weeks later, they made their first appearance in the prized support slot, and didn't give it up for more than two years. Their excellent shows naturally led to a deal with Motown, and they debuted with the up-tempo instrumental dance cut "Machine Gun." Written by Milan Williams, its Top Ten outing gave the group immediate attention. It was followed by the Top 20 single "I Feel Sanctified," which led to their third single -- and first number one record -- in "Slippery When Wet." Inside of 17 weeks, the septet was rocking the airwaves with their brand of Southern funk, spiced with an animated vocal delivery courtesy of Lionel Richie and Clyde Orange.

In September of 1976, they released "Just to Be Close to You," their second number one single and a number seven pop hit. The Top Ten hit "Fancy Dancer" followed, and then came "Easy." Different from their other tunes, "Easy" was very serene and not nearly as soulful or funky as the band's other tunes. Nonetheless, it claimed the number one spot on the charts, and it paved the way for the style of ballads the group became known for. One exception to the ballad-heavy approach was "Brickhouse," the song that soon became the group's anthem. The arrangement and candid vocal lead by Clyde Orange was complemented by the evenly saturated percussive and rhythmic attack, and it cracked the Top Ten at number four. Two consecutive number one singles would follow: the dance cut "Too Hot ta Trot" and the placid number "Three Times a Lady." And then there was "Still," the last number one for the group with Richie as a member. In 1981, Richie recorded "Endless Love" with Diana Ross. The song peaked at number one for seven and nine weeks, respectively, on the Billboard R&B and pop charts. Its success was a prelude to what Richie enjoyed upon his 1982 exit from the group.

In the absence of Richie, the group promptly courted tenor J.D. Nicholas (formerly of Heatwave) and ended up recording their biggest hit. Penned by Clyde Orange, "Nightshift" paid tribute to the late soul singers Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson. For four consecutive weeks it topped the charts, and it also won the group their only Grammy.

Commodores finally left Motown in 1985. Consequently, the group signed with Polydor the same year and had another swing at the Top Ten with "Goin' to the Bank." During the '90s, the band was reduced to a core of three: Orange, King, and Nicholas. The threesome were nearly as active as they'd ever been, performing around the world and managing their own label, Commodore Records. ~ Craig Lytle
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Gold

Disc 1

1. Machine Gun

2. Young Girls Are My Weakness

3. I Feel Sanctified

4. Are You Happy (Single Version)

5. The Bump

6. Slippery When Wet

7. This Is Your Life

8. Gimme My Mule

9. Sweet Love

10. Cebu

11. Fancy Dancer

12. High On Sunshine

13. Just To Be Close To You

14. Brick House (12" Mix)

15. Zoom

16. Easy (Extended Version)

17. Come Inside (Live)

Disc 2

1. Too Hot Ta Trot (Single Version)

2. Flying High

3. Say Yeah

4. Three Times A Lady

5. Sail On

6. Still

7. Wonderland

8. Old-Fashion Love

9. Heroes (Single Version)

10. Jesus Is Love

11. Lady (You Bring Me Up)

12. Oh No

13. Painted Picture

14. Only You

15. Nightshift

16. Goin' To The Bank

x

Track List: Colour Collection

1. Machine Gun

2. The Zoo-The Human Zoo

3. Slippery When Wet

4. Gonna Blow Your Mind

5. Easy

6. Sweet Love

7. Brick House

8. Just To Be Close To You

9. Sail On

10. Still

11. Wonderland

12. Lady (You Bring Me Up)

13. Oh No

14. Fancy Dancer

15. Too Hot Ta Trot

16. Zoom

17. Janet

18. Animal Instinct

x

Track List: Brick House

1. Three Times A Lady

2. Come Inside

3. Wonderland

4. This Is Your Life

5. Machine Gun

6. Brick House

7. Sorry To Say

8. Painted Picture

9. Sail On

10. Only You

11. Thumpin' Music

x

Track List: The Best Of The Commodores - 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection

1. Sweet Love

2. Just To Be Close To You

3. Easy

4. Brick House

5. Three Times A Lady

6. Sail On

7. Still

8. Lady (You Bring Me Up)

9. Oh No

10. Nightshift

11. Machine Gun

x

Track List: The Ultimate Collection

1. Machine Gun

2. Slippery When Wet

3. Sweet Love

4. Just To Be Close To You

5. Fancy Dancer

6. Girl, I Think The World About You

7. Easy

8. Zoom

9. Brick House

10. Too Hot Ta Trot

11. Three Times A Lady

12. Still

13. Old-Fashion Love

14. Lady (You Bring Me Up)

15. Nightshift

x

Track List: Nightshift

1. Animal Instinct

2. Nightshift

3. I Keep Running

4. Lay Back

5. Slip Of The Tongue

6. Play This Record Twice

7. Janet

8. The Woman In My Life

9. Lightin' Up The Night

x

Track List: All The Great Love Songs

1. Sweet Love

2. Just To Be Close To You

3. Easy

4. Three Times A Lady

5. Say Yeah

6. Still

7. Lovin You

8. Sail On

9. Old-Fashion Love

10. Jesus Is Love

11. Lady (You Bring Me Up)

12. Oh No

13. This Love

14. Lucy

x

Track List: Anthology

Disc 1

1. Machine Gun

2. I Feel Sanctified

3. Are You Happy

4. The Bump

5. Slippery When Wet

6. This Is Your Life

7. Gimme My Mule

8. Sweet Love

9. Cebu

10. Fancy Dancer

11. High On Sunshine

12. Just To Be Close To You

13. Brick House

14. Zoom

15. Easy

Disc 2

1. Come Inside

2. Too Hot Ta Trot

3. Flying High

4. Say Yeah

5. Three Times A Lady

6. Sail On

7. Still

8. Old-Fashion Love

9. Heroes

10. Jesus Is Love

11. Lady

12. Oh No

13. Painted Picture

14. Lay Back

15. Nightshift

x

Track List: 13

1. I'm In Love

2. Turn Off The Lights

3. Nothing Like A Woman

4. Captured

5. Touchdown

6. Welcome Home

7. Ooo, Woman You

8. Only You

x

Track List: In The Pocket

1. Lady (You Bring Me Up)

2. Saturday Night

3. Keep On Taking Me Higher

4. Oh No

5. Why You Wanna Try Me

6. This Love

7. Been Loving You

8. Lucy

x

Track List: Heroes

1. Got To Be Together

2. Celebrate

3. Old-Fashion Love

4. Heroes

5. All The Way Down

6. Sorry To Say

7. Wake Up Children

8. Mighty Spirit

9. Jesus Is Love

x

Track List: Natural High

1. Fire Girl

2. X-Rated Movie

3. Flying High

4. Three Times A Lady

5. Such A Woman

6. Say Yeah

7. I Like What You Do

8. Visions

x

Track List: Commodores

1. Squeeze The Fruit

2. Funny Feelings

3. Heaven Knows

4. Zoom

5. Won't You Come Dance With Me

6. Brick House

7. Funky Situation

8. Patch It Up

9. Easy

Comments

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S**t I love taking it easy
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Still ... Love this jam
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The Dope

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