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Flashback Video: 'Nightshift' by The Commodores

Ever since the dawn of MTV and Friday Night Videos, the music video has significantly impacted musical tastes and pop culture. It might not be as extreme as when the Buggles declared that "Video Killed the Radio Star", but there is no arguing that the music video certainly could make or break a song's popularity. So this regular Flashback Video feature will serve to remember some of the music videos from the great '80s decade that made an impact on me in one way or another.

This issue we will cover "Nightshift" by The Commodores. This song was recorded in 1984, released in January of 1985 and became the Commodores' first hit after Lionel Richie's departure from the group reaching #3 on the Billboard Hot 100. "Nightshift" was written by the band's drummer Walter "Clyde" Orange in collaboration with Dennis Lambert and Franne Golde as a tribute to R&B/Soul singers Jackie Wilson and Marvin Gaye, both of whom had died in 1984. The song features a lead vocal on the first verse from Orange, who had sung lead years earlier on their 1977 hit "Brick House". Lionel Richie's replacement, J.D. Nicholas, sings the second verse and then Orange and Nicholas share lead vocals on the remaining choruses.

The music video for "Nightshift" was directed by Bill Tannen. He had a successful career beginning in advertising including multiple Clio award-winning commercial campaigns. In 1984, he directed his first feature film, Flashpoint and has directed/produced ten other films since. He did some work in music videos starting with "Nightshift" and then later for The Temptations on 1987's "I Wonder Who She's Seeing Now" among others. The music video for "Nightshift" starts showing the band in the dressing room getting ready to go on stage and then the majority of the video features the band performing the song highlighted in front of a dark background. It's a classy video paying tribute to Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson. Here is the music video for "Nightshift" by The Commodores...

I had the pleasure of an interview with the song's co-writer Franne Golde and here is what she had to say about if she knew the song would be something special: I think all writers feel something good will happen to whatever song they’re working on, but there was something different about “Nightshift”. I was in the studio as it was being recorded and there was definitely something special going on. All the overdubs were magical and the energy was palpable. Hearing the final mix on the huge overheads, brought tears and instant joy, it sounded amazing and everyone knew it. You can find out more about Golde, writing this song and some of her other work within that interview. "Nightshift" might not be a particularly memorable video, but it is certainly one of the more magical songs of 1985 for me and it even won a Grammy Award in 1986 for Best Vocal R&B Performance by a Duo/Group.

Hope you enjoyed another trip back to the '80s thanks to Flashback Video!



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