Nile Rodgers
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Nile Rodgers

Nile Rodgers
NileRodgers2012.png
Rodgers in 2012
Background information
Nile Gregory Rodgers Jr.
Born (1952-09-19) September 19, 1952 (age 66)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Genres
  • Record producer
  • songwriter
  • musician
  • composer
  • arranger
  • guitarist
Instruments
  • Guitar
  • vocals
1970-present
Labels
WebsiteOfficial website

Nile Gregory Rodgers Jr. (born September 19, 1952) is an American record producer, songwriter, musician, composer, arranger and guitarist. The co-founder of Chic, he has written, produced, and performed on records that have cumulatively sold more than 500 million albums and 75 million singles worldwide.[1] He is a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, a three-time Grammy Award-winner, and the chairman of the Songwriters Hall of Fame.[2][3] Known for his "chucking" guitar style, Rolling Stone wrote in 2014 that "the full scope of Nile Rodgers' career is still hard to fathom."[4]

Formed as the Big Apple Band in 1970 with bassist Bernard Edwards,[5] Chic released their self-titled debut album in 1977. It included the hit singles "Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)" and "Everybody Dance." The 1978 album C'est Chic produced the hits "I Want Your Love" and "Le Freak," with the latter selling more than 7 million singles worldwide. The song "Good Times" from the 1979 album Risque was a number one single on the pop and soul charts, and became one of the most-sampled songs of all time, "ushering in" hip-hop via The Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight," inspiring Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust", and anchoring the Daft Punk hit "Around the World." [6][7]

With Edwards, Rodgers wrote and produced music for other artists, including the songs "He's the Greatest Dancer" and "We Are Family" for Sister Sledge and "I'm Coming Out" for Diana Ross.[8] After Chic's 1983 breakup Rodgers produced "a string of the post-disco era's biggest albums and singles," including David Bowie's Let's Dance, "Original Sin" by INXS, Duran Duran's "The Reflex" and "Notorious", and Madonna's Like a Virgin.[9] He later worked with artists including The B-52s, Jeff Beck, Mick Jagger, The Vaughan Brothers, Bryan Ferry, Christina Aguilera, Lady Gaga, and Daft Punk, winning three Grammy Awards in 2014 for his work on their album Random Access Memories.[10][11]

Early life

Rodgers was born in New York City, on September 19, 1952, to Beverly Goodman. She became pregnant the first time she had sex, and gave birth to Rodgers when she was 14. His biological father, Nile Rodgers Sr. - a traveling percussionist who specialized in Afro-Cuban beats - was rarely present as Rodgers grew up; although influential in his life, Rodgers saw his father only a "handful" of times prior to his death in 1970.[12]

In 1959, Goodman married Bobby Glanzrock, who Rodgers described in his 2011 autobiography as a "beatnik PhD, whose observations had angles that would make Miles Davis contemplate his cool."[13]Richard Pryor, Thelonious Monk, and Lenny Bruce, often visited their home in Greenwich Village.[14] Glanzrock and Goodman were addicted to heroin, and Rodgers began using drugs at 13.[15]

Before learning to play the guitar at 16, Rodgers played the flute and the clarinet.[16] As a teenager, he played guitar with African, Persian, Latin, jazz and Boogaloo bands.[17] He also became a subsection leader of the Lower Manhattan branch of the New York Black Panther party as a teenager.[18]

Career

1970s: Formation of Chic, "Le Freak", Sister Sledge

Rodgers met bassist Bernard Edwards in 1970 while working as a touring musician for the Sesame Street stage show. Together they formed The Big Apple Band, and worked as back-up musicians for the vocal group New York City ("I'm Doin' Fine Now"). New York City's one hit allowed them to tour extensively, even opening for The Jackson 5 on the American leg of their first world tour in 1973.[19][20] The band dissolved after their second album failed to yield a hit, but Nile and Bernard joined forces with drummer Tony Thompson, and worked and recorded as a funk rock band called The Boys, which played numerous gigs up and down the East Coast. Although there was label interest, record companies passed on the band after discovering its members were black, believing that black rock artists would be too hard to promote.[21]

As the Big Apple Band, Rodgers and Edwards worked with Ashford & Simpson, Luther Vandross, and many others. Since another New York artist, Walter Murphy, had a band also called The Big Apple Band, Rodgers and Edwards were forced to change their band's name to avoid confusion. Thus, in 1977 the band was renamed as Chic.

Inspired by Roxy Music, Chic developed a sound that was a fusion of jazz, soul, and funk grooves with melodies and lyrics with a European influence.[22] Between gigs, they recorded the song "Dance, Dance, Dance", with then-boss Luther Vandross on vocals.[23] Originally released by Buddah Records, it was an instant hit when it was re-released by Atlantic in the summer of 1977. Atlantic picked up an album option with Rodgers and Edwards, who quickly wrote more songs, and Chic's self-titled debut was released in November.[24]

The band scored numerous top ten hits and helped propel disco to new levels of popularity, with "Le Freak", "I Want Your Love",[25] "Everybody Dance",[26] "Dance, Dance, Dance",[27] "My Forbidden Lover", and "Good Times" becoming club/pop/R&B standards.[28][29] "Le Freak" was Atlantic Records' only triple platinum selling single at the time,[30] and "Good Times" shot to No. 1 in August 1979 in spite of that year's "Disco Sucks" movement protesting that style of music.[31]

The success of Chic's first singles led Atlantic to offer Rodgers and Edwards the opportunity to produce any act on its roster. They chose Sister Sledge, whose 1979 album, We Are Family,[32] peaked at No. 3 and remained on the charts well into 1980. The first two singles, "He's the Greatest Dancer" and the title cut "We Are Family" both reached No. 1 on the R&B chart, and No. 6 and No. 2, respectively on the Pop chart.[33][34][35] In April 2018, "We Are Family" was selected to be preserved in the Library of Congress.[32]

1980s: Diana Ross, David Bowie, INXS, Madonna, Duran Duran

The 1979 disco backlash derailed Chic, and Edwards retreated from work,[36] while Rodgers' drug use accelerated.[15] Rodgers and Edwards delivered their final Atlantic album under contract, Believer, in 1982.[37] They completed one of their last projects together in 1980, writing and producing the album Diana for Diana Ross, which yielded the hits "Upside Down"[38] and "I'm Coming Out".[32] They also produced Deborah Harry's 1981 solo album, Koo Koo, and produced the hit "Spacer" for the French disco act Sheila and B. Devotion.[39] During the same time period, Chic's song "Good Times" was sampled on The Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight", the first multiple-platinum hip hop single. The song continued to influence the sounds of others, including Queen, (with the 1980 hit "Another One Bites the Dust") and Blondie, who had a #1 hit with "Rapture."[30] Following Chic's breakup, Rodgers released his first solo album, Adventures in the Land of the Good Groove.[40]

With Chic no longer occupying most of his time, Rodgers was free to focus on working with other artists.[41] He produced David Bowie's biggest selling album Let's Dance, which yielded the hit singles "Let's Dance", "China Girl," and "Modern Love". He produced the single "Original Sin" by INXS, and in 1984, he produced Madonna's blockbuster album Like a Virgin, which scored three hit singles including its title track, "Material Girl", and "Dress You Up."[42][43] He worked extensively with Duran Duran, remixing their biggest-selling single, "The Reflex", producing "Wild Boys" on their 1984 live album, Arena, and co-producing the album Notorious.[44]

In 1985, Rodgers produced albums for Sheena Easton, Jeff Beck, Thompson Twins, Mick Jagger, and others,[26] and performed at Live Aid with Madonna and the Thompson Twins.[45] He was named the #1 Singles Producer in the World by Billboard at the end of the year.[46] To complete the decade, he produced albums for Grace Jones, Earth Wind and Fire's vocalist Philip Bailey, and performed on "Higher Love" with Steve Winwood, as well as on records for Cyndi Lauper, and others.[47][48] In 1989, he co-produced the B-52's multi-platinum album Cosmic Thing; it reached #4 on the Billboard 200 album chart, and yielded the singles "Love Shack", and "Roam".[49] He also produced Workin' Overtime, Diana Ross' return to Motown,[50] and the soundtracks for Alphabet City, Gremlins,[51]White Nights,[52] and The Fly.[53] He later composed an orchestral soundtrack, his first, for the film Coming to America.[54][55]

Rodgers formed the short-lived experimental band Outloud in 1987, with David Letterman's guitarist, composer, and vocalist Felicia Collins and French session musician, producer, composer, and keyboardist Philippe Saisse; the trio released a single album, ''Out Loud,'' on Warner Bros. Records.[56]

1990s: Production, reformed Chic and death of Edwards, Sumthing Else

Nile Rodgers at his Le Crib Studios, 1999

In September 1990, shortly after the death of Stevie Ray Vaughan, the Rodgers-produced Vaughan Brothers album, Family Style was released.[57] He also produced projects for David Bowie, Eric Clapton,[58]The B-52s, David Lee Roth,[59]Ric Ocasek,[60]The Stray Cats [61] and others early in the decade, and worked on the soundtracks for Thelma and Louise,Cool World,[62] and The Beavis and Butt-head Experience.[48]

Rodgers and Edwards reformed Chic in 1992 and recorded new material for the album Chic-Ism.[63] In 1996 they released a Japan-only album consisting of old Chic material rerecorded with guest vocalists, Chic Freak and More Treats . Edwards and Rodgers performed with Sister Sledge, Steve Winwood, and Slash in a series of commemorative concerts in Japan.[64] Edwards died following a concert on April 17, 1996. Rodgers discovered his body. He later said that when Edwards died he "cried like a baby and suffered intensely but eventually realised the best tribute to him would be to carry on and be the best I could be."[65][66] A year later, Rodgers returned to Japan to pay homage to his fallen partner, and in 1999, Rodgers released Live at the Budokan, a live recording of Edwards' final performance.The album was not overdubbed or changed in order to keep the recording pure.[67][68]

Rodgers started playing live concerts again while composing and producing music for film soundtracks: Beverly Hills Cop III,[69]Blue Chips,[70]The Flintstones[71] and Feeling Minnesota, working with Bob Dylan), among others.[72]

In 1997, Notorious BIG released "Mo Money Mo Problems" sampling Rodgers and Edwards' song "I'm Coming Out" from Diana Ross's platinum album, Diana. "Mo Money, Mo Problems" topped the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks[73] and was nominated for the 1998 Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group.[74]

In 1998, Rodgers founded Sumthing Else Music Works record label and Sumthing Distribution, an independent music label distributor. Sumthing focused on distributing video game soundtracks. Its titles include the complete Halo and Resident Evil as well as Gears of War and Borderlands.[75]

2000s: Film and video game soundtracks, We Are Family Foundation

In the early 2000s, Rodgers worked extensively on film and video game soundtracks, including Rush Hour 2,[76]Snow Dogs,[77] and Semi-Pro starring Will Ferrell, who co-wrote the title song "Love Me Sexy" with Rodgers.[78]

In 2002, Rodgers returned to work again with the original five members of Duran Duran when he co-produced Astronaut.[79] The album rose to No.3 in the UK.[80]

Following the September 11 attacks, Rodgers established the We Are Family Foundation to promote tolerance and multiculturalism. The foundation's first project was a re-recording of "We Are Family" , performed by more than 200 musicians and celebrities. The accompanying music video was directed by Spike Lee. The Making and Meaning of We Are Family, an 80-minute documentary, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2002. In March 2002, a video of over 100 famous children's characters singing "We Are Family" aired simultaneously on the Disney Channel, Nickelodeon and PBS. Robert Dole and Orrin Hatch proposed a National We Are Family Day in congress, and during the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, the Children's Museum of Utah launched a We Are Family exhibit.[81][65]

2010s: Autobiography, Daft Punk, Songwriter's Hall of Fame, It's About Time

In 2010, Rhino Records released a four-CD box set, Nile Rodgers Presents The Chic Organization, Volume 1: Savoir Faire, which for the first time collected tracks from all of the acts produced by The Chic Organization up to their original break-up in 1983. Rodgers provided sleevenotes for the set, which was also reissued in 2013.

Rodgers' critically acclaimed autobiography entitled Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco, and Destiny was published by Spiegel & Grau, a Random House imprint, in late 2011.[82] It was named one of the top 10 of the 25 Greatest Rock Memoirs of All Time by Rolling Stone.[83]

In February 2012, Rodgers announced that he was collaborating with electronic band Daft Punk for their latest album, "teasing out their R&B influences".[84] During a live interview for the UMFTV at the 2013 Ultra Music Festival in Miami, Rodgers confirmed that he was working with Daft Punk.[]

On March 31, 2013, BBC Four broadcast a documentary about his music life, Nile Rodgers: The Hitmaker,[85] starting from the point that Chic was formed until the present, including stories about his involvement in producing numerous hits and albums for some of the world's best artist and bands.[]

True to his word, Rodgers performed on Daft Punk's chart-topping album Random Access Memories. Rodgers co-wrote and played guitar on three tracks: "Give Life Back to Music", "Lose Yourself to Dance", and "Get Lucky". On April 21, 2013 "Get Lucky" entered the official UK Singles Chart at No. 3, despite having been available for little more than 24 hours, and rose to No. 1 on April 28, 2013. In an interview with Official Charts Company, Rodgers said, "I've had big records and Number 1s; I have had records that were Number 1 in the United States but nowhere else... I've had records which have done well [in the UK], but not in the States. But to have this ubiquitous record, that is a hit everywhere... It's amazing to me! I'm out on the road and I can hear it wherever I go. I'm flabbergasted!"[86]

Rodgers declined to perform "Get Lucky" live until performing it live with Daft Punk,[87] but at Chic's live shows in 2013, the record would usually be played immediately after the group's set, with Rodgers remaining on stage to lead the crowd in clapping and singing along. After Rodgers performed the song with Daft Punk at the Grammy Awards in January 2014, "Get Lucky" was added to the setlist for Chic's 2014 live dates.[]

On June 28, 2013 Chic ft. Nile Rodgers' performance at the Glastonbury Festival in the UK was aired live on BBC. The performance was given a five star review by The Guardian.[88][89]

In July 2013, Rhino Records released Nile Rodgers Presents The Chic Organization Up All Night (The Greatest Hits), a compilation album featuring songs written, played or produced by Rodgers and Bernard Edwards for Chic and various artists including Diana Ross, Sister Sledge, Carly Simon, Debbie Harry, Johnny Mathis, Sheila & B. Devotion and Norma Jean Wright. Up All Night reached No. 2 on the UK Compilation Album Chart for the week ending July 13, 2013. In October 2013, Rhino released Nile Rodgers Presents The Chic Organization Up All Night (The Greatest Hits Disco Edition) that includes a medley taken from Chic ft. Nile Rodgers' live performance at the 2013 Glastonbury Festival.

On October 10, 2013, Rodgers and Bernard Edwards were nominated to the Songwriters Hall of Fame.[90]

On January 26, 2014, Rodgers performed "Get Lucky" with Daft Punk on the Grammy Awards, along with Pharrell Williams and Stevie Wonder, with a medley including elements of Chic's "Le Freak" and Wonder's "Another Star". Rodgers won three Grammy Awards for his work with Daft Punk and Random Access Memories including Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, Record of the Year and Album of the Year.

In March 2014, Rolling Stone named Nile Rodgers one of the 50 Most Important People in EDM, stating, "The full scope of Nile Rodgers' career is still hard to fathom, and it's not just ongoing, it's in overdrive."[91]

Rodgers' solo single "Do What You Wanna Do (IMS Anthem)" was released on August 10, 2014[92] to benefit his We Are Family Foundation.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominated Chic for the 9th time with their 2015 nomination.

On December 16, 2014, NARAS announced that Chic's hit single "Le Freak" would be inducted into The Grammy Hall of Fame.[93]

On March 20, 2015, Rodgers released Chic's first single in more than 23 years, "I'll Be There", with a live streamed concert from The Roundhouse in London, UK.[94] The song, created by Rodgers from original Chic outtake tapes from the 70s, features original band members', the late bassist Bernard Edwards and drummer Tony Thompson, and vocalists Alfa Anderson and Luci Martin.[95] The music video was filmed by fashion photographers/filmmakers, Inez and Vinoodh, and stars supermodel Karlie Kloss.[96] The song went to #1 on Billboard's Dance Music Chart, June 20, 2015.[97] In August, Rodgers launched FOLD Festival (FreakOut! Let's Dance), A multi-day event with a diverse line-up of artists including Beck, Duran Duran, Chaka Kahn, Keith Urban, Janelle Monáe, Ginger Minj, Chic and many others.[98] Rodgers announced this event would take place on a yearly basis.[99]

Rodgers collaborated with Lady Gaga to remake Chic's hit, "I Want Your Love" for Tom Ford's Spring/Summer 2016 collection video in lieu of a fashion show.[100]

Rodgers and Bernard Edwards were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame on June 9, 2016.[101]

Christina Aguilera feat. Nile Rodgers song "Telepathy" goes number one on Billboard Dance Charts, November 12, 2016.[102] The song was written for The Get Down on Netflix.

Rodgers was inducted into the 2017 class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for Musical Excellence. "It's sort of bittersweet," says Rodgers. "I'm quite flattered that they believed that I was worthy, but my band Chic didn't win. They plucked me out of the band and said, 'You're better than Chic.' That's wacky to me ... I am flattered and I think it's cool, but I feel like somebody put me in the lifeboat and told my family they can't get in." [103]

On the evening of June 25, 2017 Rodgers and Chic returned to the Glastonbury Festival, as headliners on the Pyramid Stage, for an audience of close to 100,000.[104]

After George Michael's death December 2016, a new version of Michael's song "Fantasy" was released in September 2017, credited to "George Michael featuring Nile Rodgers." The track, previously released as a B-side by Michael's label in 1990, was reworked by Rodgers and features him prominently on guitar. It was Michael's only posthumous release.[105]

In October 2017, BBC Four broadcast the three-hour, three-part, "Nile Rodgers: How To Make It in the Music Business"[106]

In March 2018, Nile Rodgers was the subject of a Front and Center episode that aired on PBS, "Front and Center: Songwriters Hall of Fame: Nile Rodgers," which captures his and the late Bernard Edwards' induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame as well as an intimate concert and talk at the McKittrick Hotel in New York City.[107]

On March 21, 2018 CHIC's "Le Freak" was selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or artistically significant."[108]

In June 2018, "Till the World Falls", the first single from Nile Rodgers & Chic's first album since 1992, It's About Time, was released. The song featured Mura Masa, Cosha and Vic Mensa.[109] The album was released in September 2018.

In October 2018 Rodgers was the guest on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs. His favourite track was "The End" by the Doors. His book was Moby-Dick by Herman Melville and his luxury item was his 'Hitmaker' guitar and an amplifier.[110]

The Hitmaker

Rodgers plays a 1960 Fender Stratocaster with a 1959 neck, nicknamed the Hitmaker, which he acquired as a trade-in at a shop in Miami Beach, Florida. Exceptionally light, it has a maple fingerboard and a worn white finish. Rodgers claims it has a unique sound. After Rodgers purchased the guitar, Edwards taught him how to play it in a chop chord style, which he called "chucking". In his autobiography, Rodgers writes:[111]

He fingered the chords with his left hand, and his right hand would continuously play sixteen notes to the bar while accenting the main parts of the rhythm ... One lesson was all I needed. For the next few nights straight, while my roommate pursued all manner of trysts, I was having a love affair in the bathroom with my new ax. In just a few days, I'd emerge as a chucking funk guitarist who knew more jazz chord inversions than most of my R&B counterparts.

The Fender Custom Shop introduced a limited edition Nile Rodgers Hitmaker Stratocaster, a recreation of Rodgers' guitar, in January 2014.[112]

Health

In the early 1990s, Rodgers woke up one morning in hospital to learn that his heart had stopped eight times, and he was only alive due to the actions of the doctor filling out his death certificate. He would give up cocaine and alcohol three years later after a friend showed him a tape of him performing poorly in 1994.[113]

In January 2011 Rodgers revealed on his website that he had aggressive prostate cancer, which had been diagnosed in October 2010. As a result, he started a cancer blog called "Walking on Planet C" detailing his status and upcoming projects.[114]

On July 29, 2013, Rodgers posted on Twitter that he had been given the all-clear regarding his cancer.[] In November 2013, he gave an interview to BBC News talking about Daft Punk, Madonna, Diana Ross and beating cancer.[115]

On December 6, 2017, he announced on his blog that he had recently had surgery to remove a lump doctors had discovered on his right kidney after he was hospitalized for an E. coli infection.[116]

Recognition

Year Organization Award Notes
2005 Dance Music Hall of Fame Inductee
National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences
NY Chapter
Governor's Lifetime Achievement Award
2014 National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences Grammy Award With Daft Punk: Album of the Year
Random Access Memories
National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences Grammy Award With Daft Punk: Record of the Year
"Get Lucky"
National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences Grammy Award With Daft Punk
Best Pop Duo/Group Performance
"Get Lucky"
Canadian Music Week Festival The Nile Rodgers Global Creators Award Presented by Paul Williams[117]
Ivor Novello Awards Special International Award Presented by Johnny Marr [118]
International Music Summit IMS Legends Award Presented by Simon LeBon[119]
National Academy of Records Arts and Sciences Grammy Hall of Fame Inductee[93] Chic's "Le Freak"
2015 Golden Camera Lifetime Achievement[120]
Grammy Hall of Fame Inductee Chic's "Le Freak"
BMI BMI R&B/Hip Hop Icon Award[121]
National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences Honoree of the Producers and Engineers Wing[122]
Horzu magazine Goldene Kamera award for musical lifetime achievement.[123]
2016 Songwriters Hall of Fame Inductee[124] With Bernard Edwards
British GQ ICON of the Year[125]
BBC BBC Music Day Ambassador[126][127]
2017 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 11th nomination for Induction[103] Chic
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Musical Excellence[128]
2018 Songwriters Hall of Fame Appointed Chairman Unanimously elected
Berklee College of Music Honorary Doctor of Music Degree[129]
Abbey Road Studios Appointed Chief Creative Adviser[130]
National Recording Registry Library of Congress recommendation for being
"culturally, historically, or artistically significant."
Chic's "Le Freak"[108]
Music Business Association (Music Biz) Chairman's Award for Sustained Creative Achievements[131]

Selected discography

Chic

Solo

Soundtracks

Live

Production (partial)

References

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Bibliography

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