Home > Big Picture > Being For the Benefit of Mr. Nile Rodgers

Being For the Benefit of Mr. Nile Rodgers

Nile Rodgers founded and lead the disco-funk band Chic in the 1970's as well as producing hits for artists like David Bowie, Madonna and Diana Ross.

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.



“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!

Guitarist Nile Rodgers (left) and bassist Bernard Edwards (right) were a songwriting/production team who followed the lead of duos like Gamble & Huff, and paving the way for producers like Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, and LA Reid & Babyface.

Categories: Big Picture
  1. Sun
    January 19, 2011 at 12:01 am


  2. Jacki Woods
    January 19, 2011 at 12:08 am

    Nicely written, Matt! What a tragedy that no one recognized Nile Rodgers in person, or believed he wrote “We Are Family”…but you have to remember A: he gained his notoriety in the 70s as an artist with Chic and the people who WOULD recognize him would be in my age range (40-50), and B: the works of songwriters for other artists wasn’t highly publicized, as in later years; folks like you mentioned, Jam & Lewis, Reid & Babyface, et al.

    I’m saddened to learn he has cancer; I will say a prayer tonight for his complete recovery.

    But to learn that he penned songs for so many artists with varying styles is just amazing. I would have never known if not for your blog. Thank you for my music history lesson today. Keep up the good work! – Cousin Jacki

  3. Zenzele
    January 19, 2011 at 3:05 am

    Wow, this broke my heart, because Nile & Bernard’s music was a huge part of my growing up. I absolutely know who he is!

  4. Eve Love
    January 19, 2011 at 4:58 am

    Wow. Thank you Matthew, it is truly eye-opening. You are so right, those who create the song remain in the dark compared to those who perform it. Sad but true.
    I feel your heart, you are very compassionate and your desire to set things right is beautiful. You really do make a difference, as I personally had no clue that all these world-famous songs were created by Nile Rodgers. Thank you :o)
    God Bless~

  5. adon allen jr
    January 20, 2011 at 12:13 am

    Outstanding! As Jacki said, it’s often that we aren’t knowledgeable on the genius behind the scenes, but enlightenment through media such as this, and those that are indeed knowledgeable like yourself will allow us to come to know such things. Keep up the good works, were all proud of you!

  6. Nailah Baseer
    January 20, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    I can’t help but feel that when Music was taken out of the NYC curriculum in 1978 (and in other major cities)it was like the bullet that has a small entry hole, but leaves a humongous hole in the back. If you are sampling everything, what does it matter who wrote it? That may only come up IF your song is a hit and if the creators sue. I applaud your acknowlegement of Nile’s accomplishment and will pray for his healing. I am saddened to know that at time when the man is facing the possibility of impending mortality, people are oblivious to the great contributions to the soundtracks of pop culture that he made. But then again, A great deal of children think that the only African Americans that have done anything noteworthy are Martin Luther King (Notice the Rev. Dr. part has been omitted) Malcolm X and maybe Harriet Tubman. (Although the preschoolers sing Michael Jackson songs out during their grandparents time lyrically correct and audibly) How do we ignite the desire to study, discipline and know when we can google everything? Why read the book when we can see someones interpretation in less than two hours? And how do we convince the masses of people who are listening to music that there is so much more to it than the purchase sites present? Thank you for being willing to stand up on the shoulders of our ancestors and expose truth to those who do not know. The word Educate comes from the latin word meaining to light. Thanks for the match!

  7. October 14, 2011 at 3:00 am

    Very well written and inclusive of all that is Nile Rodgers. You covered a lot about the Maestro in such a short article. Salute!

  8. July 31, 2013 at 12:13 pm

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    Have a nice day. Bye

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