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This song was written by Commodores lead singer Lionel Richie, who explained in a 1979 interview with Blues & Soul magazine: "I wrote it back in 1978 and it was a very personal meaning to me. I attended the wedding anniversary of my parents and my father made a speech about how much he loved my mother and appreciated the way she had stood beside him for 37 years. It was beautiful and I started to think about my own life and how my wife stands by me, how she does so many things without being asked or thanked. So, I wrote 'Three Times A Lady' as a dedication to my wife and my mother. I think my next door neighbor summed it up when she said that if a man wanted to buy her a present, all he need do is buy her that record and he wouldn't have to say anything else."
This was the first #1 hit Lionel Richie wrote, but far from his last: he wrote songs that were #1 hits in each of the next seven years, giving him the record for most consecutive #1s by a songwriter.
This was a breakthrough song for the Commodores and for Lionel Richie as a songwriter. It crossed over to Pop, Easy Listening and even Country formats, setting the stage for further Commodores hits and Richie's massive solo success. In the same Blues & Soul
interview, Richie said: "The song has given me so much personal satisfaction. I think it is every songwriter's dream to be totally accepted. And from the masses of awards that the song has won, it seems that the whole world really does love that song. It's a great feeling."
This validation came after the Commodores song "Easy
," also written by Richie, lost to Leo Sayer's "You Make Me Feel Like Dancing" as the best Rhythm & Blues Song at the 1977 Grammy Awards.
The Commodores were more of a Funk band before their massive success with sentimental love songs like this. They had more hits in a similar style with "Still" and "Sail On," and Richie followed the formula all the way to the bank with solo hits like "Truly," "Hello," "Stuck On You" and "Penny Lover."
In the UK, this was #1 for 5 weeks. It was the biggest UK hit for Motown Records.
The Commodores had six members at the time, and they all wrote separately and competed to get songs on their albums. The band knew this track was a hit when Lionel Richie brought it in, and they made it the centerpiece of the album.
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