Commodores

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Commodores
CommodoresPerformingUpClose.jpg
The Commodores in Hallandale, Florida
Background information
OriginTuskegee, Alabama, U.S.
GenresFunk, soul
Years active1968–present
LabelsMotown, Polydor
MembersWalter Orange
William King
J.D. Nicholas
 
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Commodores
CommodoresPerformingUpClose.jpg
The Commodores in Hallandale, Florida
Background information
OriginTuskegee, Alabama, U.S.
GenresFunk, soul
Years active1968–present
LabelsMotown, Polydor
MembersWalter Orange
William King
J.D. Nicholas

The Commodores is 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 is best known for their ballads, such as "Easy" and "Three Times a Lady", but, for the most part, the group recorded funky, driven dance-floor hits which include "Brick House", "The Bump", "Fancy Dancer", 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 years 1975 and 1976 (Caught in the Act, Movin' On, 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." The year 1979 saw the Commodores score another Top Five ballad hit, "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 U.S.) and their first upbeat single in almost five years, "Lady (You Bring Me Up)" (#8 U.S.)

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 the College students. They performed mostly cover tunes and some original songs with their first singer, James Ingram, only a namesake of the famous solo artist. Ingram, older than the rest of the members of the band, left to serve active duty in Vietnam, and was later replaced by Walter "Clyde" Orange, the second lead singer who wrote or co-wrote many of their hit tunes. Lionel Richie and Orange alternated as lead singers. Orange was the lead singer on the Top 10 hits, "Nightshift" and "Brick House" among others.

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; their 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 the co-lead singer for The Commodores, and toured the world, performing in over 32 countries in a two year span.

Band performance in Florida on October 1, 2006

Over time, several founding members left. Thomas McClary left in 1982 (shortly after Richie left) 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 for several years till 1985 with their final Motown release of the 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., 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 the NIA Arena, J.D. Nicholas added Jackson's name into the lyrics of the song, and from then onwards the Commodores have mentioned Jackson and other R&B singers. From this 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. Initially, "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 the Commodores 20 greatest hits "Commodores Hits Vol. I & II", have recorded a live album "Commodores Live" along with a DVD by the same name, and a Christmas album titled "Commodores Christmas. In 2012, the band has been working on new material, some contributions written by current and former members.

Today, the Commodores 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

Former

Discography[edit]

Albums[edit]

YearAlbumPeak chart positions
USUKUS R&B
1974Machine Gun13822
1975Caught in the Act267
Movin' On297
1976Hot on the Tracks121
1976Rise Up
1977Commodores (aka Zoom in the UK)31
Commodores Live!3602
1978Natural High381
1979Greatest Hits2324
Midnight Magic3151
1980Heroes7503
1981In the Pocket13704
1982All the Great Hits
1983Commodores 1310326
1984All the Great Love Songs
1985Nightshift12131
1986United10117
1988Rock Solid101
1992Commodores Christmas
1993No Tricks
"—" denotes releases that did not chart

Singles[edit]

YearSinglePeak chart positions[2][3]Album
USUS R&BUS DanceUS ACUK
1974"Machine Gun"22720Machine Gun
"The Zoo (The Human Zoo)"44
"I Feel Sanctified"7512
1975"Slippery When Wet"191Caught in the Act
"This Is Your Life"13
1976"Sweet Love"5232Movin' On
"Just to Be Close to You"7162Hot on the Tracks
1977"Fancy Dancer"39933
"Easy"419The Commodores
"Brick House"543432
1978"Too Hot ta Trot"24138The Commodores Live!
"Three Times a Lady"1111Natural High
"Flying High"382137
1979"Sail On"4898Midnight Magic
"Still"1164
1980"Wonderland"252140
"Old-Fashion Love"208Heroes
"Heroes"5427
"Jesus Is Love"34
1981"Lady (You Bring Me Up)"8556In the Pocket
"Oh No"45544
1982"Why You Wanna Try Me"6642
"Lucy"
"Painted Picture"7019All the Greatest Hits
1983"Reach High"
"Only You"54208Commodores 13
1984"Turn Off the Lights"
1985"Nightshift"31623Nightshift
"Animal Instinct"4322974
"Janet"87658
1986"Goin to the Bank"65243United
1987"Take It from Me"38
"United in Love"22
1988"Solitaire"51Rock 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]