Commodores

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Commodores
CommodoresPerformingUpClose.jpg
The Commodores in Hallandale, Florida
Background information
Origin Tuskegee, Alabama, U.S.
Genres R&B, funk, pop
Years active 1968–present
Labels Motown, Polydor
Associated acts Lionel Richie
Members Walter Orange
William King
J.D. Nicholas
Thomas Dawson Jr.
Past members

The Commodores are an American funk/soul band, which was at its peak in the 1970s. The members of the group met as mostly freshmen at Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) in 1968, and signed with Motown in November 1972, having first caught the public eye opening for The Jackson 5 while on tour.

The group's most successful period was in the late 1970s and early 1980s when Lionel Richie was lead singer and songwriter. The band's biggest hit singles are ballads such as "Easy", "Three Times a Lady", and "Nightshift"; and funky dance hits which include "Brick House", "Fancy Dancer", "Lady (You Bring Me Up)", and "Too Hot ta Trot".

Band history[edit]

The Commodores originally came together from two former groups, the Mystics and the Jays, but wanted to change the name. To choose a new name, William "WAK" King opened a dictionary and randomly picked a word. "We lucked out", he remarked with a laugh when telling this story to People magazine. "We almost became 'The Commodes!'"

"Machine Gun", the instrumental title track from the band's debut album, became a staple at American sporting events,[citation needed] and is similarly featured in many films, including Boogie Nights and Looking for Mr. Goodbar. It reached No. 22 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1975. Another instrumental, "Cebu" (named after an island in the Philippines), later became a staple[by whom?] in the Quiet storm format. Three albums released in 1975 and 1976 (Caught in the Act, Movin' On, and Hot On The Tracks) are considered the peak of their harder funk period. After those recordings the group started to move towards a softer sound. That move was hinted at in their 1976 Top Ten hits "Sweet Love" and "Just to Be Close to You". In 1977 the Commodores released "Easy", which became the group's biggest hit yet, reaching No. 4 in the U.S., followed by "Brick House", also Top 5, both from their landmark album "The Commodores", as was "Zoom". The group reached No. 1 in 1978 with the sweet "Three Times a Lady". In 1979 the Commodores scored another Top Five ballad, "Sail On", before reaching the top of the charts once again with another ballad, "Still". In 1981 they released two Top Ten hits with "Oh No" (#4) and their first upbeat single in almost five years, "Lady (You Bring Me Up)" (#8).

The band originated while its members attended Tuskegee University in Alabama. After winning the university's annual freshman talent contest, they played at fraternity parties as well as a weekend gig at the Black Forest Inn, one of a few clubs in Tuskegee that catered to college students. They performed mostly cover tunes and some original songs with their first singer, James Ingram (not the famous solo artist). Ingram, older than the rest of the band, left to serve active duty in Vietnam, and was later replaced by Walter "Clyde" Orange, who would write or co-write many of their hit tunes. Lionel Richie and Orange alternated as lead singers. (Orange was the lead singer on the Top 10 hits "Brick House" and "Nightshift".)

The Commodores made a brief appearance in the 1978 film Thank God It's Friday. They performed the song "Too Hot ta Trot" during the dance contest; the songs "Brick House" and "Easy" were also played during the movie.

In 1982, Lionel Richie left to pursue a solo career. In 1983, Skyler Jett replaced Richie as co-lead singer.

Band performance in Florida, 2006

Over time, several founding members left. Thomas McClary left in 1982 (shortly after Richie) to pursue a solo career and to develop a gospel music company. McClary was replaced by guitarist/vocalist Sheldon Reynolds. LaPread left in 1986 and moved to Auckland, New Zealand, and Reynolds departed for Earth, Wind & Fire in 1987, which prompted trumpeter William "WAK" King to take over primary guitar duties for live performances. Keyboardist Milan Williams exited the band in 1989. The group also gradually abandoned its funk roots and moved into the more commercial pop arena. In 1984 former Heatwave singer James Dean "J.D." Nicholas assumed co-lead vocal duties with drummer Walter Orange. The band remained hitless until 1985 when their final Motown album, "Nightshift", produced by Dennis Lambert—all prior albums were produced by James Anthony Carmichael)—delivered the Grammy Award-winning title track "Nightshift" (#3 in the U.S.) It was a tribute to Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson. In 2010 a new version was recorded dedicated to Michael Jackson.[1] The Commodores were on their European Tour, performing at Wembley Arena, London on June 25, 2009, when they were advised that Michael Jackson had died. Initially the band thought it was a hoax. However, back in their dressing rooms they received confirmation and broke down in tears. The next night in Birmingham's NIA Arena, J.D. Nicholas added Jackson's name into the lyrics of the song, and thenceforth the Commodores have mentioned Jackson and other R&B singers. Thus came the inspiration upon the one year anniversary of Jackson's death, to re-record, with new lyrics, the hit song "Nightshift" as a tribute. "Nightshift" won The Commodores their first Grammy for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals in 1985.

In 1990 the Commodores formed Commodores Records and re-recorded their 20 greatest hits as "Commodores Hits Vol. I & II". They have recorded a live album "Commodores Live" along with a DVD of the same name, and a Christmas album titled "Commodores Christmas". In 2012, the band was working on new material, some contributions written by current and former members.

The Commodores now consist of Walter "Clyde" Orange, J.D. Nicholas, and King "WAK", along with their five piece band, known as the "Mean Machine". The group continues to perform, playing at arenas, theaters, and festivals around the world.

Personnel[edit]

Current

  • Walter Orange – lead singer, drums, keyboards
  • William "WAK" King – trumpet, rhythm guitar, synthesizer
  • J.D. Nicholas – lead singer, keyboards
  • Thomas Dawson Jr. – Music Director/Keyboards

Former

Discography[edit]

Albums[edit]

Year Album Peak chart positions
US UK US R&B
1974 Machine Gun 138 22
1975 Caught in the Act 26 7
Movin' On 29 7
1976 Hot on the Tracks 12 1
1976 Rise Up
1977 Commodores (aka Zoom in the UK) 3 1
Commodores Live! 3 60 2
1978 Natural High 3 8 1
1979 Greatest Hits 23 24
Midnight Magic 3 15 1
1980 Heroes 7 50 3
1981 In the Pocket 13 70 4
1982 All the Great Hits
1983 Commodores 13 103 26
1984 All the Great Love Songs
1985 Nightshift 12 13 1
1986 United 101 17
1988 Rock Solid 101
1992 Commodores Christmas
1993 No Tricks
"—" denotes releases that did not chart

Singles[edit]

Year Single Peak chart positions[2][3] Album
US US R&B US Dance US AC UK
1974 "Machine Gun" 22 7 20 Machine Gun
"The Zoo (The Human Zoo)" 44
"I Feel Sanctified" 75 12
1975 "Slippery When Wet" 19 1 Caught in the Act
"This Is Your Life" 13
1976 "Sweet Love" 5 2 32 Movin' On
"Just to Be Close to You" 7 1 62 Hot on the Tracks
1977 "Fancy Dancer" 39 9 33
"Easy" 4 1 9 The Commodores
"Brick House" 5 4 34 32
1978 "Too Hot ta Trot" 24 1 38 The Commodores Live!
"Three Times a Lady" 1 1 1 1 Natural High
"Flying High" 38 21 37
1979 "Sail On" 4 8 9 8 Midnight Magic
"Still" 1 1 6 4
1980 "Wonderland" 25 21 40
"Old-Fashion Love" 20 8 Heroes
"Heroes" 54 27
"Jesus Is Love" 34
1981 "Lady (You Bring Me Up)" 8 5 56 In the Pocket
"Oh No" 4 5 5 44
1982 "Why You Wanna Try Me" 66 42
"Lucy"
"Painted Picture" 70 19 All the Greatest Hits
1983 "Reach High"
"Only You" 54 20 8 Commodores 13
1984 "Turn Off the Lights"
1985 "Nightshift" 3 1 6 2 3 Nightshift
"Animal Instinct" 43 22 9 74
"Janet" 87 65 8
1986 "Goin to the Bank" 65 2 43 United
1987 "Take It from Me" 38
"United in Love" 22
1988 "Solitaire" 51 Rock Solid
"—" denotes releases that did not chart

Awards and recognition[edit]

The Commodores were inducted into The Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2003. Among multiple Grammy nominations, they won a Grammy for "Nightshift" in 1986.

References[edit]

Notes

External links[edit]