Effortlessly straddling the line between hard funk and gentle soul, The Commodores were one of Motown's top groups in the late '70s and '80s. After meeting at Alabama's Tuskegee Institute, the young group signed to Berry Gordy's label and released their debut album in 1974. Early funk hits like the instrumental "Machine Gun" and the era-defining "Brick House" were balanced with mellow ballads featuring sweet-voiced singer/songwriter Lionel Richie. The softer songs grew to define the band until Richie went solo in 1982. The Commodores scored one more hit, 1985's hypnotic "Nightshift."