“Nightshift”

“Nightshift”

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Story Behind the Song

Walter “Clyde” Orange
“Nightshift”

Written by Walter Orange, Dennis Lambert, Franne Golde
Recorded by the Commodores

Back in the day, whether we wrote individually or together, the Commodores always wrote the music for our songs first. I sometimes hummed a melody into a tape recorder that I always kept with me so I would remember the ideas as they came to me. Then, once I got home, or sometimes a long time after, I added the funk. In the case of “Nightshift” (which was not titled yet), I had a bunch of songs on that recorder, some just a chorus, some a verse, and some were just a thought. Most of the time, I left them on there until I had time to listen to them or I was looking for a new melody. Six to eight months after I wrote that melody the group had some time off and I listened to several ideas I had on tape. That one really stood out. I went into my studio at home in Tuskegee, Alabama, first put drums to it, then added the rhythm pattern and I finished the track.

“Nightshift” was going to be about a man and a woman — a love song on top of a funk groove, which is pretty much what I’m known for. I write up tempo, kind of promiscuous songs — “Gettin’ It,” “Brick House.” I wrote the lyrics to “Slippery When Wet” in one and a half hours, but some of them were rejected because they needed to be cleaned up.

I liked the music, the groove of the track. It was 1983-4, Lionel (Richie) had left the group and we were recording a new CD. We had one more shot to prove ourselves.

I was on my boat in Alabama, pulling into the dock, when someone said that one of the members of my group was killed. My heart was in my stomach. It couldn’t be Richie, Tommy (McClary) had already left the group — who could it be? It turned out that the guy only heard Motown on the radio, knew I was in the Commodores, and gave me the wrong information. It was Marvin Gaye who was killed by his father. Of course, we knew Marvin and admired his talent and were in shock.

About three months later, we were looking for a fresh approach for our next record and had a new producer, Dennis Lambert. Dennis brought some songs to us to consider and after our meeting I pulled out a cassette of my track. Dennis loved it. I started writing the song as a tribute to Marvin. I came up with the first verse and got stuck. Dennis asked if he could work on it with me and I was delighted. I felt good about the music but I didn’t think it would be a hit anyway, since it wasn’t about a woman or booty or anything popular.

The next day Dennis asked to bring in another writer, Franne Gold, and they finished the lyrics in just a few days. Franne and Dennis introduced singing about Jackie (Wilson) as well as Marvin. We threw around titles and Dennis came up with “Nightshift.” I recorded the song with Dennis producing and he was happy with it and felt it was done after I finished the last lyric. I felt it needed something new. JD Nicholas was just coming into the group and I suggested that JD, another voice, sing about Jackie. It was a great way to introduce JD. Originally Dennis added him to pacify me with the stipulation that if it didn’t work, we would use the version I recorded. We brought JD in and he nailed it! Dennis really liked his voice on it and thought it would be a hit. The rest is history. It brought the Commodores our first Grammy.

“Nightshift”

Marvin, he was a friend of mine

And he could sing a song

His heart in every line.

Marvin sang of the joy and pain

He opened up our minds

And I still can hear him say…

Aw talk to me, so you can see

What’s going on.

Say you will sing your songs

Forevermore (evermore).

Gonna be some sweet sounds

Coming down on the nightshift.

I bet you’re singing proud

Oh I bet you’ll pull a crowd.

Gonna be a long night

It’s gonna be all right

On the nightshift.

Oh you found another home

I know you’re not alone

On the nightshift.

Jackie (Jackie), hey what you doing now?

It seems like yesterday

When we were working out.

Jackie (Jackie, oh) you set

The world on fire.

You came and gifted us,

Your love it lifted us

Higher and higher.

Keep it up and

We’ll be there

At your side,

Oh say you will sing

Your songs forevermore (evermore).

Gonna be some sweet sounds

Coming down on the nightshift.

I bet you’re singing proud

Oh I bet you’ll pull a crowd.

Gonna be a long night

It’s gonna be all right

On the nightshift.

Oh you found another home

I know you’re not alone

On the nightshift.

Gonna miss your sweet voice,

That soulful voice, On the nightshift.

We all remember you

Ooh the songs are coming through

At the end of a long day

It’s gonna be okay

On the nightshift.

You found another home

I know you’re not alone

On the nightshift.

Words and Music by Walter Orange, Dennis Lambert and Franne Golde. © 1984 by Rightsong Music Inc., Franne Golde Music, Universal Music - Careers and Walter Orange Music. All Rights for Franne Golde Music Administered by Rightsong Music Inc. International Copyright Secured. All Rights Reserved.

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