The Commodores' 10 best songs, ranked

22 February 2024, 14:41

Commodores in 1980
Commodores in 1980. Picture: Getty

By Tom Eames

The Commodores are one of the most iconic bands in the history of soul and funk music.

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With a groove that is both timeless and infectious, they have left an unforgettable mark on the world of music.

Hailing from Tuskegee, Alabama, the Commodores met at Tuskegee Institute in 1968, and signed to Motown in 1972 after opening for the Jackson 5.

Led by Lionel Richie’s soul-stirring vocals and backed by a band of exceptional talents, they achieved widespread acclaim and success throughout their career. They sold over 60 million records worldwide, won a Grammy Award, and were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame.

The Commodores’ musical style ranged from upbeat disco and funk to soft rock and romantic ballads. They had a string of hits in the 1970s and 1980s, and their songs have been covered by a wide variety of artists.

So, let’s get this party started and dive into the best Commodores songs!

  1. Just to Be Close to You

    Just To Be Close To You

    The song was written and sung by Lionel Richie, and is a romantic ballad that expresses the deep longing and devotion of a lover. The song begins with a spoken introduction, where Lionel confesses his feelings and says that he would do anything to be near his partner.

    The song was a huge success, reaching number one on the Billboard Hot Soul Singles chart and number seven on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

    However, not everyone was a fan of the song. Some listeners found the song rather cheesy, corny, or sappy, and mocked Lionel's spoken introduction as being over-the-top or ridiculous. You be the judge.

  2. Oh No

    Oh No

    This love song was written by Lionel Richie, who was inspired by his own personal struggles with love and marriage. He later said that he wrote the song in 15 minutes, while sitting in a hotel room in New York.

    'Oh No' is a song about the pain of losing someone you love, and the fear of facing life without them. The lyrics express his disbelief and denial that his relationship is over, and his hope that he can somehow change his lover's mind.

    The song was released as a single in 1981, and became a hit in the US and Canada, reaching the top five on the Billboard Hot 100, Hot Black Singles, and Adult Contemporary charts.

  3. Brick House

    Commodores - Brickhouse (Live)

    'Brick House' is a funk song released in 1977 as part of their self-titled album. The song was a hit, reaching number 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 4 on the R&B chart.

    It also became a popular dance anthem, thanks to its catchy groove and lyrics that celebrate a woman's physical attractiveness.

    The song's title is a slang expression that means "built like a brick s***house", which refers to a strongly built woman. According to Lionel Richie, the idea came from a conversation he had with his bandmates, who were joking about the women they saw at a party. Richie said: "We started laughing, and before you knew it, we had a song.

  4. Lady (You Bring Me Up)

    Commodores - Lady (You Bring Me Up)

    This track was released in 1981 as the first single from their album In the Pocket. The song was written by William King, Harold Hudson, and David Cochrane, and produced by James Anthony Carmichael.

    The song is a catchy and upbeat tune that expresses gratitude and admiration for a woman who has lifted Lionel's spirits and made him feel alive. It also features a funky bass line, a horn section, and a guitar solo.

    The music video features the band playing a six-a-side football match with a group of female players. It's worth it just to see Lionel in goal.

  5. Machine Gun

    Machine Gun

    This is an instrumental funk tune that features a catchy clavinet riff, a horn section, and a groovy rhythm section.

    It was inspired by the sound of gunfire, which the band's keyboardist Milan Williams heard while playing a clavinet at a studio in Los Angeles. The song became the band's first hit, reaching number 22 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 7 on the R&B chart.

    The song is also a reflection of the social and political context of the 1970s, when the Vietnam War, the Watergate scandal, and the civil rights movement were prominent issues. The song expresses a sense of urgency, protest, and resistance, while also being fun and danceable.

  6. Still

    The Commodores Still 1979 (Audio Remastered)

    This love song was written by Lionel Richie, and expresses the mixed feelings of a man who is breaking up with his lover, but still loves her deeply.

    The song was a huge success, reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and the R&B charts, and number four on the UK Singles Chart.

  7. Sail On

    Commodores - Sail On

    'Sail On' is a classic soul song, released in 1979 as a single from their album Midnight Magic. The song was written by Lionel Richie, and is about a couple who have grown apart and decided to end their relationship, but still wish each other well.

    The lyrics express a sense of sadness, nostalgia, and acceptance, as Lionel tells his former lover to "sail on down the line" and "find someone new".

    The song is notable for its smooth and mellow musical arrangement, featuring Richie's soft vocals, a gentle piano melody, and a prominent saxophone solo by William King.

  8. Nightshift

    Commodores - Nightshift (Official Music Video)

    This was released in 1985 as a tribute to two of their musical influences, Jackie Wilson and Marvin Gaye, who both died in 1984.

    Released after Lionel Richie had departed, the song features a catchy synth-pop groove and a smooth vocal performance by Walter Orange, who also co-wrote the song with Dennis Lambert and Franne Golde.

    The song was a huge success, reaching number three on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the UK Singles Chart. It was also the Commodores' first hit after Lionel Richie's departure from the group.

  9. Three Times a Lady

    Commodores - Three Times A Lady [Live]

    'Three Times a Lady' is a classic ballad that expresses Lionel's love and admiration for his partner. The song was released in 1978 as the lead single from their album Natural High, and became a worldwide hit, reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100, the UK Singles Chart, and several other charts.

    It was written by Lionel Richie, who was inspired by a comment his father made to his mother at their 37th anniversary party. Richie said that his father thanked his mother for being "a friend, a wife, and a mother", which he translated into "three times a lady" in the song.

    The song is widely regarded as one of the best love songs of all time, and a testament to the Commodores' musical versatility and talent.

  10. Easy

    The Commodores - "Easy" (1977)

    'Easy' was released in 1977 as part of their fifth studio album, Commodores. The song was written by Lionel Richie, who wanted to create a crossover hit that would appeal to both the soul and pop audiences.

    The song is a slow ballad that expresses the relief of a man who ends a relationship and feels "easy like Sunday morning". It was inspired by Richie's own experience of living in a small Southern town that was quiet and peaceful on Sundays, unlike the busy and hectic weekdays.

    It was a huge commercial and critical success, reaching number one on the Billboard Hot Soul Singles chart, number four on the Billboard Hot 100, and number nine on the UK Singles chart.

    It features a distinctive electric guitar glide and a solo by Thomas McClary, the band's guitarist, and was covered by many artists, such as Faith No More, Boyz II Men, and Willie Nelson.