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In 1977, the Commodores were in the studio recording when there was a problem with the equipment. While the tapes were being repaired and replaced, the group took a break. Ronald LaPread, the group's bass player, began jamming. Bit by bit the rest of the band joined in until they came up with a track and bass line. Upon returning, James Carmichael, the Commodores' producer, heard and recognized that this could be a song worth recording. He asked everyone to see if they could use the riff to come up with a song. Taking the tapes home, William King played them for his wife, Shirley Hanna-King. While he slept she was inspired to write lyrics for the riff, modifying the expression "built like a brick shithouse" for the song.
The following day King sang the lyrics to "Brick House" to band, allowing them to think he had written it. They loved it and decided that drummer Walter "Clyde" Orange had the funky voice to sing lead vocals, and the song went on the new album.
It took several years before the Commodores discovered that it was actually Shirley Hanna-King who had written the lyrics, and although not originally credited, the band have publicly acknowledged her as the song's writer.
In 1995, Mayte released "House of Brick", a rap version of "Brick House", on Paisley Park Records. The track appears on her debut album Child of the Sun. The song features The New Power Generation, and Mayte's then-husband, Prince. That same year, Dread Zeppelin covered this song as "Brick House (of the Holy!)" on their album No Quarter Pounder.
"Brick House" was also covered in 2003 by Rob Zombie on the House of 1000 Corpses Soundtrack and released as a promo single. The song can also be found on Zombie's Past, Present & Future album. In the song, Zombie collaborates with Lionel Richie (who did not sing on the original version) and Trina on vocals.
"Brick House" was featured in the 1999 film, Muppets from Space.
In the film Gone in Sixty Seconds a comical member of the car theft crew performs a burlesque show with his toy doll while singing the chorus of "Brick House" in order to distract an officer at the police impound booth.
In the sitcom Dinosaurs, Roy Hess sings the song in the episode "Georgie Must Die"
On an episode of Living Single, the women all sing "Brick House" in unison while preparing to go out to a nightclub.