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Top 50 Best Songs by The Commodores

The Commodores are an interesting band to consider. They arrived at a time when Motown and associated similar acts were big news worldwide. There were thousands of groups like this all over America and even in other countries, all trying to get a record deal.

To get that deal, or even to be noticed, you had to have something very special. The Commodores were one of the few that had that. His name was Lionel Ritchie. And, when you have him singing for your band, then you have a head start.

But was there more to the band than just him? So, let’s take a look at the music of The Commodores and consider the best songs by the Commodores.

Formed At College

They got together, like so many groups and bands did in those days, at school. They played what most bands at the time were playing, some R&B, Soul, and a little Funk. 

The difference here was that most of these bands fell by the wayside or were just not good enough. The Commodores stuck it out and reaped the benefits. By the early 70s, they had a record deal with Motown and were working as a backing band for other artists.

Writing Was On The Wall

Chart success followed with songs like “Brick House” in 1977, but it was clear the members were heading in different directions. Or at least one of them was. 

Ritchie tried to lead them down a more mellow, ballad-styled path. Undoubtedly, at the encouragement of the people at Motown. But they were a soul/funk band.

He wrote “Three Times A Lady,” which became a huge hit. Ritchie’s star was in the ascendancy, and he began to overshadow the rest of the band. He wrote “Lady” for Kenny Rogers and “Endless Love” for Diana Ross, which he sang with her.

Departure

People didn’t see him as a Commodore any longer. It was Ritchie and those guys who backed him. That is grossly unfair, of course. They were a lot better than that. By 1982, it was over. We don’t need to go into any more details; I think you’ve probably got the picture.

The sad thing is that while Ritchie took all the plaudits after he had left, many people forgot all about The Commodores. They are still together today, though, with some original members and after a few personnel changes, of course. 

But, they are still playing concerts and still playing their brand of funky soul music. So, let’s take a look at their body of work and pick up the best of what they did, starting with…

Top 50 Best Songs by The Commodores

1
Machine Gun

This song was taken from their first album that carries the same name. It was released as a single in 1974. Berry Gordy at Motown decided on the track’s name because of the sound of the clavinet. 

A purely instrumental track like this was uncommon in 1974. But, what it did do was announce the change that R&B was going through. It was developing more of a rhythm, a ‘disco-like’ rhythm. Although, it would be unfair to call this a ‘disco’ track.

The music creates this image of war and violence, and people dying. Not a happy subject, but one that needs to be constantly addressed, then and today. It was featured in the film “Kill Bill” and has been covered by many people.

What You Hear Is What You Get

This was The Commodores laying down a groove. That is what they were best at. As I say, it was released at a time when R&B in its basic form was becoming more rhythmic and designed for a different audience.

It took another three years for the likes of “Saturday Night Fever” to cement the change. That was the ‘plastic’ version. “Machine Gun” by the Commodores was the real deal. 

It was written by keyboard player Milan Williams. It reached #22 in America and did slightly better in the UK, where it got to #20.

2
Sail On

This turned out to be one of The Commodores’ most famous songs. It was lifted from their 1979 album Midnight Magic. In some sources, you will find that the writers credited were King, Orange, and LaPraed, but it was a Lionel Ritchie song. 

It was sung by William King and Walter Orange. It reached #4 in America and #8 in the UK. In some ways, it demonstrates the varying musical preferences that existed in the band even at this time. 

It is a poignant song with plenty of the emotion that was found in later tracks. Although, this track still carries a semblance of the band’s R&B roots.

Broken Relationships

It is a song that is telling someone to accept the relationship has gone and to move on. But, it is a positive message that offers support to those who may be struggling with that sort of problem.

It is a typical example of what was to come later from many writers, including Ritchie himself. That is, a sad story wrapped in a ‘sweet’ pop song. It has some nice vocals designed to make it a ‘pop’ hit.

3
Still

As divisions musically and probably in other areas grew, the band agreed to let Ritchie make a solo album. The song “Still” was written by Ritchie for his self-named first album. It was also released by the band in 1979 on their Midnight Magic album.

Similar Lyrical Theme

It carries almost the same lyrical theme as “Sail On.” Namely, about a man still in love with his ex-girlfriend who is encouraged to forget her and move on.

A typical Ritchie composition with a nice piano part, again, it demonstrates just how far apart the band and Ritchie were musically. Furthermore, the song, whilst written about a friend’s marriage break up, could also be a comment on the band.

A Cryptic Meaning

He could just as easily be singing about leaving the band before it all became acrimonious. Better to part on good terms. It isn’t, of course, just an interesting cryptic observation. 

This was the last #1 that The Commodores had in America before he left the band. It also reached #4 in the UK and had success in several other countries.

4
Flying High

Let’s get away from the ballads and back to what The Commodores do best. This track comes from their sixth album, Natural High, released as a single in 1978. An interesting intro that puts you in mind of a progressive rock band like ‘Yes’ in its phrasing. But with a little added funk.

The song is an antidote for all those “lost love” songs that Lionel Ritchie was writing. It speaks of a man who is “flying high” because he is in love. Offering a positive message about being in a relationship rather than bemoaning just losing one.

It reached #1 on the American R&B chart. It was on limited release worldwide, so apart from placing #5 in Holland, it didn’t score.

5
Three Times A Lady

Probably one of the most well-known songs by The Commodores and the most played. This was also a track from their 1978 album, Natural High, and was written, of course, by Lionel Ritchie. It went to the top of the chart in America, the group’s first #1 hit. 

Furthermore, it was the only Motown song that year to get to the top ten. It was also one of a very few Motown songs to get to #1 in the UK.

A Motown waltz?

This is a song that contains none of the Commodore’s original funk sound. It was a romanticized waltz that hardly seems appropriate for a soul or funk band. It became a huge hit, of course. But you get the feeling that as a ‘hit,’ it was more linked to Ritchie than the band. 

And that became even more apparent when he released it on a greatest hits album in 1992. The track included was The Commodores’ version.

6
Easy

By now, in this list of the best songs by The Commodores, it is easy, pardon the pun, to pick out the early stuff from the latter. This was released in 1975 and came from the album entitled Commodores, written by Lionel Ritchie, and he sings it. 

It may have been an early attempt to push the band down the road he wanted to go in with his writing. It is a pleasant enough ballad and still retains that element of, shall we say, creative musicianship behind it.

A Different Approach

In some ways, a different approach in content to Ritchie’s later writing. This song is all about the good feeling someone has about their relationship. How their partner makes them feel easy.

The music tends to create an alternative mood, and if you can’t hear the lyrics, you might assume it was another ‘lost-love song.’ But that’s not the case. 

It has a nice lilt and a positive message. And with its backing track and an excellent guitar solo, it becomes one of the most popular songs by The Commodores. It reached #4 on the American chart and #9 in the UK.

7
Brick House

Let’s finish with a track that was released in 1977. It reached #5 in the American chart and #32 in the UK. The vocals are by drummer Walter Orange. It has plenty of early funk about it with a bluesy horn section that helps to create the mood.

If you are looking for a track that typifies the Commodores as they saw themselves, then this is a good one to choose. Light years away from the sugar-sweet ballads they are often better known for.

Nice, tight drums and a bass rhythm section that demonstrates the quality of the musicianship. A track that shows what they could do even in their early days.

8
Old-Fashion Love

9
Can’t Let Go

10
Painted Picture

11
Janet

12
Keep On Taking Me Higher

13
Say Yeah

14
Lady of Magic

15
Hold On

16
High On Sunshine

17
Don’t You Be Worried

18
Turn Off The Lights

19
Goin’ To The Bank

20
I Feel Sanctified

21
Lovin’ You Is Sweeter Than Ever

22
Why You Wanna Try Me

23
Love Comes Easy

24
The Bump

25
Can’t Dance All Night

26
Such a Woman

27
I Wanna Rock You

28
Slippery When Wet

29
United In Love

30
You Are The One

31
Forever Came Today

32
Fancy Dancer

33
Look What You’ve Done To Me

34
Love Will Find a Way

35
The Zoo (The Human Zoo)

36
Too Hot ta Trot

37
Lady (You Bring Me Up)

38
Just to Be Close to You

39
Zoom

40
Slippery When Wet

41
Oh No

42
Animal Instinct

43
The Bump

44
X-Rated Movie

45
Too Hot ta Trot

46
Lady (You Bring Me Up)

47
Just to Be Close to You

48
Wonderland

49
Only You

50
Animal Instinct

Looking for Some Amazing Music?

We have you covered. Take a look at our comprehensive articles on the Best Fleetwood Mac Songs, the Best Cat Stevens Songs of All Time, the Best The Guess Who Songs of All Time, the Best Gloria Estefan Songs of All Time, and the Best Sia Songs of All Time for more great songs.

Best Songs by The Commodores – Final Thoughts

That completes my look at this, in some ways, most misunderstood band. They started in one direction and then had to accommodate an internal change of direction. Finally, that internal change went on its own.

The early work they produced was exceptional, full of funky soul rhythms, but with that, R & B feel still there.

The Motown Input?

It was probably a ‘suit’ who thought they could make more money out of a solo Lionel Ritchie than a five-piece band. You can’t dispute that Lionel Ritchie wrote very good ‘pop’ songs for the time, even if they all did sound just about the same. By that, I mean the productions rather than the melodies.

But, this is an article talking about The Commodores’ best songs. Ritchie was an important part of that at one time. But, the emphasis, concentration, and attention shifted from the band to him. 

They were and still are a great group. Ritchie’s departure did cost them their profile. That can’t be denied, and that is a shame. But, their music is still standing today, and we have a great catalog of what they were able to produce. In their field, without a doubt, one of the best.

Until next time, happy listening.

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