After Lionel Richie left the Commodores to pursue a solo career in the 1980s, the group was in need of a signature hit.Listen to the new version of “Nightshift” here.

In 1984, singers Jackie Wilson and Marvin Gaye died, both well before their time. (Gaye was 44; Wilson was 49.) Inspired by the musical talents of these singers, songwriters Walter Orange and Franne Gold of the Commodores and songwriter Dennis Lambert wrote “Nightshift,” a plaintive song using the “nightshift” as a metaphor for heaven.

The original song, off the 1985 album of the same title, won a Grammy in 1985 for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group.


In the wake of Michael Jackson’s death one year ago, the group has rerecorded the song as a tribute to Jackson by altering the lyrics. No longer an ode to a group of fallen musicians, it now pays homage to Jackson for his impact on the world.

Here is one of the reworked lyrics:

“Michael, he was a friend of mine

For more than forty years, no brighter star did shine

Michael, they call you, ‘King Of Pop’

But for your gentle soul, the pain would never stop.”