“Nightshift” was an important song for the Commodores. The title track from their eleventh album, it became their first and biggest hit after Lionel Richie left the group, peaking at number three on both the Billboard Hot 100 and UK Singles Chart. But there’s more to it than that.
The Commodores wrote “Nightshift” as a tribute to singers Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson, both of whom died in 1984. The first verse mentions Marvin Gaye’s song “What’s Going On,” while the second verse mentions Jackie Wilson’s “Baby Workout” and “(Your Love Has Lifted Me) Higher and Higher.”
According to Spin, the Commodores were initially against Motown’s decision to release “Nightshift” as a single. In this case, it’s good that the band was overruled. The song went on to win a Grammy Award in 1985 for Best Vocal R&B Performance by a Duo/Group.