|The Commodores in the mid 70s.|
Today is the 66th birthday of one of the funkiest bass guitarists in history so it seemed like a good time wheel out this little top 10 list. Ronald LaPread was the bassist for the Commodores from 1969 until his departure for a new life in New Zealand in 1986.*
So with LaPread basslines to the fore, here are 10 of the funkiest Commodores songs. These songs remind not just how much LaPread deserves a place in the pantheon of greatest bassists, but also how funky Lionel Richie could be.
I’m not one of those precious music fans who subscribes to the simplistic Lionel Richie narrative of him killing the Commodores funk vibe with his dang ballads. That narrative wrongly extends amongst some to a dismissal of his wildly successful solo career and ignores the fact the Commodores always mixed the funk with the ballads.
It also ignores the integrity of Richie ballads – songs like Easy, Still, Stuck On You, My Love and Do It To Me are timeless and continually relevant as long as hearts are still broken. But more than that, it overlooks that within the Commodores – Walter Orange, William King, Thomas McClary, Milan Williams and Ronald LaPread – there were plenty of other very capable multi-genre writers.
McClary, Williams and LaPread all wrote particularly strong material, from the hard-funk of Slippery When Wet to the quiet storm of Cebu for McClary, to the melodic-stylings of Williams’ Old Fashion Love and Wonderland to the classic LaPread slow-jams Zoom and Say Yeah. Though singling out those three hardly seems fair when King could write songs as good as Lady You Bring Me Up and You’re Special (the biggest LaPread bassline ever?) and Orange with Nightshift. The point is, Lionel Richie didn’t just sing ballads and the other five Commodores didn’t just write funk.
My short take on the 45 year career of Lionel Richie is that for an approximate 12 year peak (1974-1986), he encapsulated much of the very best of what popular music can be with his emotionally direct soul and balladry, not to mention his funk and country-tinged R&B.
So for the sake of those who’ll never appreciate the beauty of a terrific ballad, here are the Commodores at their purely funkified finest – The Commodores 10 Funkiest Songs: Look What You’ve Done To Me, X-Rated Movie, Slippery When Wet, Fancy Dancer, Brick House**, Funky Situation, Patch It Up, I Feel Sanctified, The Assembly Line and Celebrate.
Look What You’ve Done To Me – 1975:
X-Rated Movie – 1978:
Slippery When Wet – 1975:
Fancy Dancer – 1976:
Brick House – 1977:
Funky Situation – 1977:
Patch It Up – 1977:
I Feel Sanctified – 1974:
The Assembly Line – 1974:
Celebrate – 1980:
**Brick House features Walter Orange on lead vocals.