Lionel Richie came up in Tuskegee, Alabama in the fifties and sixties. It’s not a stretch to assume he was as steeped in country music as he was in soul. The Commodores were funky, but they were also ‘Bama as hell. One of their early songs (it’s on their Anthology CD) is literally called “Gimme My Mule”. So, the fact that Lionel and the band he (sort of) fronted eventually had a hit with a country/soul fusion tune called “Easy” shouldn’t be much of a surprise.
“Easy” is – somewhat oddly- a breakup ballad. I mean, by the end of the first verse, Lionel has already stated “I’m leaving you tomorrow”. It doesn’t seem to be a particularly painful breakup for him. Much like a later Commodores hit, “Sail On”, Lionel’s response to the end of a relationship seems to be a resounding “meh”. Some might call it callous, some might call it philosophical.
There are many reasons why I love “Easy”.The screamy feedback in the bridge. The weird fuzz guitar solo in the middle of the song. “I wanna be hiiiiiiiiigh….sooooo hiiiiiiiigh…” Not to take anything away from the other Commodores, but “Easy” was the first song that really pointed the way towards the genteel balladeer Lionel would become as a solo artist. To the other band members (and possibly Lionel)’s credit, “Easy” also captures that sensibility without drowning in cheese the way Lionel would later do with songs like “Truly” and “Hello”.