Last week, as part of the Song A Day Challenge, I posted Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long.” In the comments there was a discussion about the difference between Richie in the Commodores versus Richie’s solo career. In my opinion, he began to sound different once he went solo. His songs, though good, just weren’t the same as those he did with the Commodores. If you listen to “All Night Long” from last week and this post’s song, you can see the difference in his vocals. It should be noted that Walter Orange also sings some lead vocals on this song as well. Regardless, today’s song is one of the group’s most romantic songs.
Today’s #RomanticTuesday song is “Just To Be Close To You” by the Commodores.
By 1976, the Commodores were gaining traction on the pop charts. Their first pop top ten hit, “Sweet Love” went to #5 earlier in the year. Their follow up pop single was “Just To Be Close To You,” which would reach #7 by the end of the year. Both were R&B hits as well. But if you listen closely, even though the vocals don’t sound quite the same, the seeds of pop star Lionel Richie could be seen in those songs.
First of all, Richie wrote many of the group’s best ballads. “Sweet Love,” “Easy,” “Three Times A Lady,” “Still,” “Sail On,” and today’s song were all written by Richie. Second, those were the types of songs (though Richie would have some success with uptempo songs as well) that he did well with in the pop market. So he really didn’t change his songwriting all that much, just his vocal style.
For all of the success the Commodores had—and they had plenty of success, especially during the 1970s—the only Grammy the band ever won came after Richie left. The group won best R&B song for “Nightshift,” which was released long after Richie had cemented himself as a solo artist. But while he was there, he collaborated with the other band members on some memorable songs, of which “Just To Be Close To You” was one.
I hope you enjoy today’s #RomanticTuesday song. If you have an opinion about Lionel in the Commodores or Lionel the solo artist, leave it in the comments. And thank you for reading and listening.