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Decades before becoming an American Idol judge, hit-maker Lionel Richie was a member of the Motown band, the Commodores. While with the group (and later as a solo artist), he wrote iconic lyrics that touched fans around the world. But one particular Commodores song struck a chord very close to home and spurred an unusual response from his grandmother.

Lionel Richie
Lionel Richie | Adam Sorenson / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Lionel Richie wrote chart-toppers as a member of the Commodores

Richie soared as a lead vocalist and lyricist for Motown’s Commodores. The band captured fame with groovy tunes including, “The Bump” and “Let’s Get Started.” While the group was primarily known for funk, Richie penned several romantic songs that reverberated in the hearts of music-lovers.

In a 2018 interview with GQ, he opened up about being inspired to write some of the Commodores’ ballads. Richie told the publication, “I tried to write the funky song. It came out ‘Three Times a Lady,’” He went on to say, “At that particular time, it went straight to number one because it was so disruptive and so left of center.”

“Three Times a Lady,” “Just to Be Close to You,” and “Easy,” became slow-dance standards in the ‘70s. But along with those sweet crowd-pleasers, Richie also wrote more salacious songs, including the mega-hit, “Brick House.”

The Commodores ‘Brick House’ celebrated beauty and brass

The clothes she wears, her sexy ways
Make an old man wish for younger days, yeah, yeah
She knows she’s built and knows how to please
Sure enough to knock a strong man to his knees

“Brick House” by The Commodores

Those lyrics from the Commodores 1977 single, “Brick House,” celebrated a woman’s strength and splendor. The dance record held an impressive stint on the U.S. charts, and the song’s success added to the Commodores’ fame, both internationally and in their own backyards.

‘Brick House’ drove Lionel Richie’s grandmother away from church for a while


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The driving beat, catchy lyrics, and electric vocals made “Brick House” a party anthem for the masses. But one of the songwriter’s loved ones had a different response than most fans who heard it on the radio. In Richie’s interview with GQ, he recalled how his grandmother reacted to “Brick House.” Richie said this:

Of all the songs that I thought was going to be [like], ‘Oh my God, this is not gonna work, [it] was “Brick House.” I don’t know what was wrong with me but, you know, all I kept thinking… I think it was just the fear factor of, ‘I have to play this song for my grandmother.’ The song came out, and she didn’t go to church for about two or three weeks because it was just absolutely disgusting. You know what I’m saying. And then of course as the song became a hit, she kind of got over it because the check came in. Everybody’s happy.

Lionel Richie to GQ