In 1985, the Commodores were what those in the music industry may call "past prime." Their charismatic leader, Lionel Richie, had left the band. They hadn't had a hit in a few years. It seemed like they were done.
And then came "Nighshift". Initially, the band didn't want this song, which was a tribute to two legendary singers who had passed far too young in 1984 - Jackie Wilson and Marvin Gaye, to be a single. Their label insisted, and it ended up being not only an R&B but also a pop hit - one of the biggest of their career. It won the Grammy in 1986 for Best Vocal R&B Performance by a Duo/Group, an honor that was well-deserved.
Suddenly, the Commodores were no longer seen as past prime. This song cemented their own legendary status and proved that there was a market for smooth songs like this.
Of course, you can hear the emotion tied to this song in its live performance. On top of being legends, the band KNEW Marvin and Jackie. When Walter Orange sings "he was a friend of mine", he means it. Eagle-eyed listeners will hear Wilson and Gaye lyrics quoted in the appropriate verses.
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