The Commodores were founded in Alabama in 1968, and were one of the most popular funk groups of the 1970s. The large group featured several lead vocalists, including Walter Orange (also drums) and Lionel Ritchie (also piano, sax, drums). The group scored many pop and R&B hits in the mid-70s, including “Machine Gun”, “Sweet Love,” and “Cebu”. ¬†As Lionel Ritchie became more of a songwriting force, the group had a series of ballads with strong chart success. The ballads included “Easy”, “Three Times a Lady”, and “Still”. The group also scored a Grammy with “Nightshift” in 1985, a song that paid tribute to Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson.

Brick House” is a fine example of the group’s funkier music. Featuring lead vocals from Orange, the song describes a woman who is built like a brick house (36-24-36). The song was a top 5 hit, and is regularly rated as one of the best funk songs ever.

Ritchie left the group in 1982 after writing “Lady” for Kenny Rodgers and dueting with Diana Ross on “Endless Love.” He had a massively popular solo career throughout the rest of the decade, including the hits “Truly”, “Hello”, “Say You, Say Me”, “Dancing on the Ceiling”, and probably his most popular solo hit “All Night Long”. Ritchie was one of the creative forces behind “We Are the World” as well. The hits dried up in the 1990s, though his popularity has been somewhat resurgent thanks to appearances on American Idol and new fame as the father of Nicole Ritchie.