Being For the Benefit of Mr. Nile Rodgers
Today, I found out that Nile Rodgers, hit-making producer and founder of disco group Chic, has cancer. According to his own blog via his website, he found out that he has “aggressive cancer” back in October of 2010. While this news has been an uncomfortable shock to me, nothing prepared me for what he wrote next. As he prepared for his surgery, Mr. Rodgers entered a diner after an early morning jog. As he ordered a coffee, “We Are Family,” the number 1 single he penned and produced with his partner, late Chic bassist Bernard Edwards, played in the background. He exclaimed “Wow, that’s my song,” but the people inside didn’t believe him, and overcome with various emotions, he was hurt, and began to cry. This passage hurts my heart to the core. As an avid music lover, I’ve known about the greatnessof Mr. Rodgers as a guitarist and songwriter nearly all my life. One of the very reasons I became a music journalist was to help expose people to truth. By Mr. Rodger’s own admission, the average person usually does not know who wrote a song off the top of their head, and they are understandably, albeit unfairly, overlooked. But Rodgers has earned a reputation – forgive me, a LEGACY – of second-to-none musicianship, explosive sonic melodies and instantly memorable hooks that the whole world has been singing for more than quarter of a century. To hear first hand how much the general musical ignorance of the public affects the song’s creator lets me know now more than ever how important it is to enlighten people of their history to give them more appreciation for the songs they sing so much.
Mr. Rodgers, I don’t know if you’ll ever get to read this, but I KNOW YOU! I KNOW WHAT YOU’VE DONE! I APPRECIATE YOU! YOUR MUSIC HELPED ME! YOUR MUSIC STILL HELPS ME! I SALUTE YOU! GOD BLESS YOU, THE DEARLY DEPARTED BERNARD EDWARDS AND I PRAY YOU’LL HAVE A SPEEDY RECOVERY!
FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO DON’T KNOW, PREPARE TO BE EDUCATED!!!!!
“He’s The Greatest Dancer,” “We Are Family” – Sister Sledge, 1978
Nile and Bernard Edwards wrote and produced the We Are Family album for Sister Sledge in 1979, proving to be their most successful album to date. While the title track became a timeless hit, “He’s the Greatest Dancer” was released first, and was a million seller in its own right. Since then, it’s been sampled by hip hop artists; most famously by Will Smith for his number 1 hit, “Gettin’ Jiggy With It.”
“Good Times,” “Le Freak” – Chic, 1979
Chic was Nile’s main job, as their guitarist, co-producer and principal writer with bassist Bernard Edwards. Together, Edwards and Rodgers created all of Chic’s classics, such as “Dance Dance Dance (Yowsa Yowsa Yowsa),” “La Freak,” “I Want Your Love” and “Good Times.” “Good Times” in particular has endured the longest, thanks in part by it being the foundation for The Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight.” “Le Freak” was written out of anger of being turned away from the infamous velvet rope of Studio 54. After playing the famous guitar riff and singing “Ahhhh, Fuck Off,” Edwards convinced Rodgers that the song could actually be a hit. He was right.
“Upside Down,” “I’m Coming Out” – Diana Ross, 1980
Nile and Bernard enhanced their reputation as a hit factory with Chic, leading them to be recruited by big names. One of those big names was Diana Ross, who brought Rodgers and Edwards along to write and produce her album Diana. Loaded with great dance tracks, the songs that have lasted the longest have been “Upside Down,” which is a personal favorite of mine, and “I’m Coming Out,” once again, another smash hit that’s yielded success for future generations, via The Notorious B.I.G.’s “Mo Money, Mo Problems.”
“Let’s Dance,” “China Girl” – David Bowie, 1983
Eventually, Nile Rodgers went it alone as a producer and proved his powers brilliantly with David Bowie’s album Let’s Dance. Songs like “Modern Love,” “China Girl” were hits on both sides of the Atlantic, but the title track has been the iconic legacy of that record. As usual, “Let’s Dance” got a hip hop make over by Puff Daddy and Mase on their hit single “Been Around the World.”
“Material Girl,” “Like A Virgin” – Madonna, 1984
Thanks to his success with David Bowie, in 1984, female pop singer Madonna chose Nile Rodgers to produce her breakthrough sophomore LP, Like A Virgin, which also featured his Chic partner Bernard Edwards on bass. It was an immediate phenomenon, selling nearly 10 million copies and yielding some of Madonna’s best known songs, like the title track, “Dress You Up” and “Material Girl,” which became her nickname to this day.
“The Reflex,” “Notorious” – Duran Duran, 1983; 1986
British pop band Duran Duran achieved great US success with hits like “Rio,” and “Hungry Like The Wolf,” but it wasn’t until producer Nile Rodgers came in and was able to harness their power into a focus canvas of funk and musicianship. The results were the hit single “The Reflex” in 1983 and the number 2 hit, “Notorious,” from the album of the same name, which Nile Rodgers produced as well.
Well, let this be a lesson to you all to make sure you know your history now! If you find out one day that this wonderful man create so much of the music you love, but he’s no longer here to be celebrated, you just might regret it. As stated before, most songwriters and record producers remain in the dark, but public knows the big names, like The Neptunes, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, L.A. Reid and Babyface. Nile Rodgers, along with his late partner Bernard Edwards, deserves to be mentioned among those names, for his songs are no less legendary and timeless. He’s still with us, everybody! Celebrate him while you still can!