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The Meaning of the Commodores’ “Easy”

The Commodores’ 1977 hit “Easy” hits just right when you’re looking for some music to soothe the soul.

Released as a single from the group’s self-titled fifth album, “Easy” was written by lead singer Lionel Richie and depicts a man coming to terms with an impending breakup. It topped the soul charts and peaked at number four on the Billboard Hot 100, and today it is widely recognized as one of the best soul cuts of all time.

While it may sound like a happy song, the lyrics to “Easy” are actually quite solemn, presenting a quiet confidence about the difficult decision to end a relationship, but not denying the pain it causes. This is done with the most immaculate of vibes, which is what makes it such a special song.

Richie spoke about the meaning of the phrase “easy like Sunday morning” with SPIN in 2009:

“Easy like Sunday morning” applies to anybody who lives in a small Southern town. Small Southern towns die at 11:30 p.m. Saturday night. They roll up the sidewalk. So I kind of got that from my own experiences – that was Lionel Richie from Tuskegee, Alabama, where there is no such thing as four-in-the-morning partying.

Lionel Richie on the meaning of “Easy like Sunday morning”.

When he wrote the song, he was envisioning a tame Saturday night in a small Southern town. Nobody is making noise or causing debauchery, they’re simply at home resting for Sunday morning. They’ll wake up feeling refreshed, not hungover, and ready to face the day.

“Easy” Lyrics Meaning

Now let’s take a look at the lyrics, starting with the first verse:

I know it sounds funny, but I just can’t stand the pain
Girl, I’m leaving you tomorrow
Seems to me girl, you know I’ve done all I can
You see, I begged, stole and I borrowed, yeah, ooh

First verse to “Easy” by the Commodores.

Richie has concluded that he’s had enough pain in this relationship, and he’s made up his mind to end the relationship tomorrow.

He explains that he’s done everything in his power to make it work, including some desperate things like beg, steal, and borrow. This also suggests that he may not be such an innocent party in the way things are going, but we don’t get the woman’s perspective.

The chorus shows that he’s comfortable with his decision:

That’s why I’m easy
I’m easy like Sunday morning
That’s why I’m easy
I’m easy like Sunday morning

Chorus to “Easy” by the Commodores.

When Richie sings that he’s “easy like Sunday morning,” he is saying that he’s done stressing over the decision, and now he’s feeling relaxed because he knows what needs to be done.

Think about it, when you wake up on a beautiful Sunday morning, with nowhere to go and nothing to do. Don’t you feel pretty “Easy”?

Why in the world would anybody put chains on me, yeah?
I’ve paid my dues to make it
Everybody wants me to be what they want me to be
I’m not happy when I try to fake it, no, ooh

Second verse to “Easy” by the Commodores.

The second verse suggests that the woman whom Richie was involved with is a bit controlling, and she didn’t approve of his superstar lifestyle. He feels that since he worked so hard to reach the point he was at in his career, she should not be trying to hold him back.

Richie goes on to say that it isn’t just his ex-lover who wanted him to be something other than himself, but rather everybody in his life. He is only happy when he gets to be who he wants to be, and ending this relationship is one step in that direction.

Next up is another chorus before we reach the bridge, building up to that glorious guitar solo:

I wanna be high, so high
I wanna be free to know the things I do are right
I wanna be free
Just me, oh babe
Ooh

Bridge to “Easy” by Commodores.

Richie’s use of “high, so high” raises the tension, with the yearning of soaring through the air with freedom. He is so ready to end this thing, he’s about to burst with the magnificent energy of the guitar solo that breaks out of the bridge here.

The song ends with two more repetitions of the chorus, and we’re all feeling “easy like Sunday morning.”

The Commodores – “Easy”

Tuskeegee Version Featuring Willie Nelson

In 2012, Lionel Richie revisited some of his old favorites from throughout his career and compiled them on an album called Tuskeegee. The album featured entirely new recordings of songs like “Stuck On You”, “All Night Long”, and of course, “Easy”.

The Tuskeegee version of “Easy” features none other than Willie Nelson, who contributes lead vocals on the second verse and the bridge, with harmonies from Richie. There are some out there who consider this version to be superior than the original Commodores recording.

I’d like to point out the appropriateness of Willie Nelson taking the reins on the “high, so high” lyric, considering his association with smoking marijuana. Lionel shares this sentiment, as he shared with Spotify during an interview that accompanied the album release.

Faith No More Version

In 1992, the rock band Faith No More released a cover of “Easy” that offers a straightforward take on the song, except it omits the second verse. It was an unlikely cover for the band to play, as they are more of an experimental rock band, who lean on the heavier side.

However, the band had grown frustrated with the cover of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” that they normally played, because it was bringing out a group of fans who would show up just for that song.

To spite them, Faith No More started throwing “Easy” into their sets, which as we know is quite the opposite of “War Pigs”, sonically. They liked it so much that they decided to record it for their 1992 album Angel Dust.

They also released a music video for their take on “Easy”, and you can watch that below.