The Commodores

The Commodores

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Biography

The Commodores is an American funk/soul band of the 1970s and 1980s. The members of the group met as freshmen at Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) in 1968, and signed with Motown in November 1972. The Commodores have sold over 75 million records worldwide. This group is best known for their ballads, such as "Easy" and "Three Times a Lady", but, for the most part, the group mainly recorded funky, driven dance-floor hits which include "Brick House", "Say Yeah", "Fancy Dancer", and "Too Hot Ta Trot". "Machine Gun", the instrumental title track from the band's debut album, became a staple at American sporting events, and is similarly featured in many films, including “Boogie Nights” and “Looking for Mr. Goodbar.” It reached #24 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1975. 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." The group had no major hits in 1980, but by 1981 they were back with a vengeance, scoring Top Ten hits with the ballad "Oh No" (#4 U.S.) and their first upbeat single in almost five years, "Lady (You Bring Me Up)" (#8 U.S.). Many of their hit tunes were written or co-written by Walter "Clyde" Orange, the original lead singer before Lionel Richie came on board. Lionel and Clyde alternated as lead singers. Clyde was also the lead singer on "Nightshift" and "Brick House" among others. After Richie left to pursue a solo career, former Heatwave singer J.D. Nicholas assumed co-lead vocal duties with drummer Walter "Clyde" Orange. However, with the exception of the Grammy-winning "Nightshift" (#3 in the U.S., a tribute to Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson) the band never achieved the same level of success it had enjoyed with Richie. Ironically, "Nightshift" won The Commodores their first Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals in 1985. Over time, the group's founding members began leaving. 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 New Zealand, and Reynolds departed for Earth, Wind and Fire in 1987, which prompted trumpeter Walter "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 1983, Skyler Jett, replaced Lionel Richie as the lead singer for The Commodores, and toured the world and performed in over 32 countries in a two year span. The group left Motown in 1986 for Polydor, and released several additional albums, which are primarily compilations of previous material. They have re-recorded Commodores hits and have recorded a live album and a Christmas album. Today, the Commodores consist of Walter "Clyde" Orange, James Dean "J.D." Nicholas and William "WAK" King, along with a backing band. The Commodores were inducted into The Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2003.

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