When one hears the name Nile Rodgers mentioned I think most people with think straight away of CHIC and probably of their massive disco hit LE FREAK, but there is certainly more to this giant of musicianship than one song or one hit. In fact, Rodgers was responsible for a plethora of hits which he either wrote, produced or performed upon. These were for artists such as Sister Sledge, Diana Ross, Carly Simon, Madonna, David Bowie, Eric Clapton etc, the list of his credits are in fact endless and at times astonishing. Rodgers was also responsible for creating a handful of movie scores, his music elevating the action underlining the drama and accompanying the romantic and action interludes in films such as the Eddie Murphy comedy COMING TO AMERICA in which the composer supported the comedy as well as the dramatic content with his music without being intrusive. Rodgers is a master of fusing instrumental score with original songs and this talent is displayed within this movie in-particular, it contains a strong and vibrant soundtrack that not only enhanced the movie well, but, managed to stand on its own two dancing feet away from the images of the picture.
Nile Rodgers had his first encounter with a guitar whilst still at school in New York, after this first taste of music he was virtually unstoppable his talent and quick learning standing him in good stead and getting him noticed. Aged 19, the young man with a mature musical talent started to tour with the Sesame Street Band for the stage show of the popular TV show and would also work at night in various clubs and became a member of the famous in house band of the APOLLO THEATRE in Harlem. Where Rodgers performed with numerous revered acts and artistes such as Aretha Franklin, Bootsy Collins in the guise of both Funkadelic and Parliament, he also accompanied vocalists such as Ben E. King and The Cadillacs and numerous famous R and B artists. When you think about it this was certainly an achievement for one so young, but he was not and still is not one to sit on his laurels and he soon made the decision to form his own band, Rodgers thought long and hard about this and decided that the best way to begin would be to find an associate writer performer who thought along the same lines as he did, this was not an easy task but in a relatively short period of time Nile found another New Yorker, in the form of Bernard Edwards, who was a more than proficient and talented bass player, the two complimented each other musically and soon their partnership was established.
They formed THE BIG APPLE BAND and began to provide backing duties for singing groups such as NEW YORK CITY who had a hit during the 1970’s with I’M DOING FINE NOW, because of their involvement with this one hit by the band they were able to go on tour and act as support to THE JACKSON 5 on the opening part of their world tour in 1973.
THE BIG APPLE BAND recorded two albums but neither managed to yield any hit singles, so the band dissolved because of this and it had to be disbanded because, Walter Murphy another musician had a band of the same name. After THE BIG APPLE BAND, Rodgers and Edwards teamed up with drummer Tony Thompson to play funk and soul hits in various venues up and down the Eastern coast of the U.S.A. under the name of THE BOYS. There was a lot of interest in the rock sound that they performed and a few record companies showed more than an interest in offering them a recording contract, until they found out that they were black, their excuse being that black rock artists were not easy to promote? The BOYS continued to perform in clubs and small venues.
After this they formed CHIC and hit the charts and filled the dance floors in the late 1970, s with their debut single DANCE, DANCE, DANCE, (yowzah yowzah yowzah) in 1977. The success of this now disco classic was followed up swiftly with EVERYBODY DANCE in 1978, and then the third single which is an iconic work LE FREAK, that became a track that just encapsulated everything that is good about disco music, it was LE FREAK that would firmly place both Rodgers and Edwards on the musical map and became the biggest selling single that Warner Brothers have ever had.
The effervescent hitmaking duo finished off 1978 with a second album entitled C’EST CHIC, which entered the chart of the day at the number five position. As the new year began the band achieved hits with tracks such as, “I Want Your Love”, “Good Times” and a third CHIC album, Risque. But this was not enough for Edwards and Rodgers, whilst remaining the front men for CHIC they began to produce and write for other artistes, SISTER SLEDGE for example who’s first album contained the hit singles THE GREATEST DANCER and WE ARE FAMILY, both of which hit the number 1 spot in the United States. They were also responsible for Diana Ross’s hits UPSIDE DOWN and I, M COMIN OUT.
It is also true to say that the style and sound achieved by Rodgers and Edwards influenced a whole generation of artistes and a lot of sound alike CHIC tracks started to pop up here and there. Born on September 19th 1952 Nile Gregory Rodgers Jnr, his mother became pregnant at age 13, and gave birth to him in New York City. His parents and stepfather were all heavy heroin users throughout his childhood. During his early years Nile was surrounded by music and it was his love of the music of THE BEATLES and John Lennon, that attracted him into making music his career. He was drawn towards the Fernder Stratocaster, which remains to this day his preferred instrument. In his teenage years Rodgers became a member of the Harlem chapter of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. He remains friendly with numerous former Panthers, including Professor Jamal Joseph.
During the 1980,s, Chic’s song “Good Times” was to play an important and pivotal part in the creation and subsequent explosion of hip hop music, as an interpolation of the song’s bass line and the record’s string-section sample became the foundation of Rapper’s Delight” by The Sugar Hill Gang and went on to become the first multiple-platinum Hip Hop single. The Chic Organization as it had become known also produced the hit “Spacer” for French disco act Sheila and B. Devotion and went onto produce Deborah Harry’s (Blondie) 1981 solo album Koo Koo.
Chic parted company in mid 1983 after their final albums on the Atlantic label, Believer and Soup For One (a film soundtrack). It was at this time that Rodgers decided to go his own way and pursue a solo career, his first album as a solo artist was Adventures in the Land of the Good Groove and went onto produce David Bowies LETS DANCE album which included the massive hits, CHINA GIRL, MODERN LOVE and of course the title track LETS DANCE. It was during this period of his career that he produced tracks and albums for bands such as INXS and DURAN DURAN. As well as working with Robert Plant and producing the works of THE THOMSON TWINS, MADONNA, SHEENA EASTON, MICK JAGGER and JEFF BECK.
He also worked on soundtracks producing songs for GREMLINS, AGAINST ALL ODDS, THE FLY and WHITE NIGHTS to name but a few. It was whilst producing songs for movie soundtracks that Nile’s interest was aroused in film scoring and in 1988 he worked on COMING TO AMERICA, this was followed by the music for WHITE HOT and EARTH GIRLS ARE EASY, on which he collaborated with The B52’S, this was a collaboration that led Nile to co-produce the bands album COSMIC THING which included the smash hit singles LOVE SHACK, ROAM and DEADBEAT CLUB.
Later that year Rodgers produced Dian Ross’s return to Motown album WORKIN OVERTIME. During the 21 st Century, Rodgers continues to excite and astound his followers and peers alike, in the early part of the 2000’s he began to concentrate on the scoring of movies and also creating soundtracks for video games, these included RUSH HOUR 2, SNOW DOGS and SEMI-PRO which was a vehicle for Will Ferrell who worked with Rodgers on the film’s title song, LOVE ME SEXY. Rodgers talent and prolific writing and producing prowess continued through to the present day and he worked with PHARRELL WILLIAMS, DAFT PUNK once again being in the forefront of the music industry and creating popular songs and music tracks. Without a doubt Nile Rodgers has made a massive contribution to almost every music genre, his film scores deserve to be released in their complete editions and given the credit they so deserve.