Saturday, August 12, 1978

Commodores hit #1 with “Three Times a Lady”

Three Times a Lady


Writer(s): Lionel Richie (see lyrics here)

Released: June 8, 1978

First Charted: June 16, 1978

Peak: 12 US, 14 CB, 16 GR, 15 HR, 13 AC, 12 RB, 15 UK, 14 CN, 15 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): -- US, 0.91 UK

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 17.3 video, 82.19 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

It doesn’t get more successful than this. “Three Times a Lady,” the first #1 pop song for the Commodores, topped the Billboard Hot 100 as well as comparable U.S. pop charts Cashbox and Hit Records. It was also a #1 on Billboard’s R&B and adult contemporary charts. Internationally, it reached the pinnacle in the UK (where it was the biggest hit for Motown Records SF), Canada, Australia, Ireland, the Phillipines, and South Africa and reached the top 5 in 25 other countries. WK

Lionel Richie was a freshman at Tuskegee Institute in 1968 when he met his fellow bandmates who would become the Commodores. In 1971, they were signed ast the opening act for a tour for the Jackson Five. It would be two more years before they made their first recordings with Motown. One was an instrumental called “Machine Gun” which reached the top 10 on the R&B chart. In 1975, the Commodores hit #1 on the R&B chart with “Slippery When Wet,” which also reached the top 20 on the pop charts.

That song was written by guitarist Thomas McClary. However, Lionel Richie would soon become the breakout star of the group with more ballad-oriented fare through hits like “Sweet Love,” “Just to Be Close to You,” and “Easy.” All were top ten hits on the pop charts and the latter two reached #1 on the R&B chart.

Still, when Richie first wrote “Three Times a Lady” he wasn’t sure it was right for the Commodores. The song was inspired by the 37th anniversary party for Lionel Richie’s parents. His father toasted his mother, Alberta, saying, “She’s a great lady, she’s a great mother, and she’s a great friend.” WK Richie decided to pen a thank you to Brenda, his wife at the time. He envisioned the song, which he wrote as a waltz, being sung by Frank Sinatra. However, when he played it for James Carmichael, who was producing the Commodores, he insisted it be on their album. WK According to Richie, his neighbor said “if a man wanted to buy her a present, all he need do is buy her that record.” SF


  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for Commodores
  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for Lionel Richie
  • FB Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 487.
  • KL Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh (2005). 1000 UK Number One Hits: The Stories Behind Every Number One Single Since 1952. London, Great Britain: Omnibus Press. Page 240.
  • SF Songfacts
  • WK Wikipedia

First posted 5/22/2022; last updated 12/26/2022.

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