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Three Times a Lady

"Three Times a Lady" is a song by American soul group the Commodores, from their 1978 album Natural High. It was produced by James Anthony Carmichael and the Commodores. It was also the only Motown song to reach the Top 10 on the US Billboard Hot 100 that year. It was the Commodores' first Billboard Hot 100 number-one hit, topping the chart for two weeks on August 12, 1978 and it also went to number one on the soul chart for two weeks.[1] The song spent three weeks at #1 on the adult contemporary chart.[2]

"Three Times a Lady"
Three Times a Lady by Commodores US vinyl.jpg
A-side label of the U.S. vinyl single
Single by Commodores
from the album Natural High
B-side"Look What You've Done to Me"
Length3:36 (7" )
6:36 (12" )
Songwriter(s)Lionel Richie
Producer(s)James Anthony Carmichael

The song also reached #1 on the Canadian RPM Singles Chart for four weeks, and was one of only a few Motown singles to reach the top spot in the UK Singles Chart, staying there for five weeks.[3] The song was also successful in Ireland, staying at #1 in the charts for three consecutive weeks. It was #1 in Australia for five weeks, and reached #2 in New Zealand.


As a student at Tuskegee University, Lionel Richie joined friends to form the band The Commodores. The group primarily performed funk and party songs written by band members. Richie had grown up in a household full of varying kinds of music.[4] His grandmother, Adelaide Foster, taught classical piano, and he was also inspired by the country music that was ubiquitous in Alabama.[4][5]

At a party to celebrate his parents' 37th wedding anniversary,[6] Richie's father toasted his mother, Alberta, saying "She's a great lady, she's a great mother, and she's a great friend."[4] The toast inspired Richie to write a waltz, "Three Times a Lady", which he dedicated to his wife, Brenda.[4][5] Richie did not believe that a waltz would fit The Commodores' musical style, so he wrote it imagining that it would be sung by Frank Sinatra.[4]

As the band prepared to record the album Natural High, group members presented various songs that they had written. Richie played "Three Times a Lady" for producer James Carmichael, with the warning that he intended to pitch the song to Sinatra. Carmichael insisted that the song be added to The Commodores' album.[4]


In the United States, "Three Times a Lady" was the first of two singles off of Natural High.[7] It entered the Billboard Hot 100 chart on June 18, 1978 at number 73. Eight week later, it reached number 1, where it remained for two weeks.[6] It also reached the top of the R&B chart, soul, and country charts.[7][5] The song was the first number 1 single for The Commodores,[6] and the first of their songs to be a top 10 hit in the United Kingdom.[7] The song eventually reached the top of charts in the United Kingdom, the Philippines, South Africa, and Canada, and was in the top 5 on charts in 25 other countries.[5]

The original Commodores' version of the song was included as the final track on Lionel Richie's greatest hits compilation album Back To Front, released in 1992.


The song was a "smash hit"[4] which launched The Commodores into a higher level of fame and notice. In large part due to the popularity of this song, the band was named the top R&B group of the year by Rolling Stone, Billboard, and Cashbox. Billboard also named them the number 3 pop group of 1978, making them one of the historically few non-white performers listed.[5] 'Three Times a Lady" was nominated for two Grammy awards, for Song of the Year and for Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo, Group, or Chorus.[8] The song won a 1979 American Music Award and a People's Choice Award.[9]

Many other artists reached out to Richie, asking him to write songs with them. Richie at first turned them all down, but eventually agreed to work with country singer Kenny Rogers. The collaboration resulted in Rogers' hit song "Lady".[7]


"Three Times a Lady"
Single by Conway Twitty
from the album Lost in the Feeling
B-side"I Think I'm in Love"
ReleasedNovember 1983
RecordedFebruary 1–2, 1983
Sound Stage Studio, Nashville, Tennessee
LabelWarner Bros.
Songwriter(s)Lionel Richie
Producer(s)Jimmy Bowen, Conway Twitty
Conway Twitty singles chronology
"We Had It All"
"Three Times a Lady"
"Somebody's Needin' Somebody"
  • Nate Harvell recorded a country version in 1978, reaching #23 on the Billboard country chart.
  • Conway Twitty's version appears on his 1983 album Lost in the Feeling. Twitty's version reached No. 7 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart in the late winter of 1984. AllMusic reviewer Tom Jurek wrote that "Three Times a Lady" and the previous single, "Heartache Tonight" "offer(ed) a solid view of Twitty's amazing crossover potential, and his ability to take well-known pop tracks and turn them into solid country smashes long after the countrypolitan days of Chet Atkins and RCA."[10]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 130.
  2. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2002). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961-2001. Record Research. p. 62.
  3. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. pp. 356–7. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Olson, Cathy Applefeld (June 8, 2016), "Lionel Richie Tells the Story Behind Breakthrough Hit "Three Times a Lady" Before Songwriters Hall of Fame Ceremony", Billboard
  5. ^ a b c d e Harris, Ron (May 1979), "The Commodores", Ebony, p. 62-69
  6. ^ a b c Bronson, Fred (2003), "Three Times a Lady", The Billboard Book of Number One Hits, Billboard Books, p. 487, ISBN 9780823076772
  7. ^ a b c d Betts, Graham (2014), Motown Encyclopedia, AC Publishing, ISBN 9781311441546
  8. ^ Artist: Commodores, Grammy Awards, retrieved 3 April 2019
  9. ^ From Commodores lead to global solo sensation, a spectacular 50-year career, Songwriters Hall of Fame, retrieved 3 April 2019
  10. ^ Thom Jurek. "Lost in the Feeling - Conway Twitty | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-03-28.

External linksEdit