Guitarist and record producer Nile Rodgers achieved fame as one of the
leaders of Chic, arguably the best band to emerge from the heyday of
disco. But he has spent the ensuing decades becoming one of pop music's
most dependable producers.
Rodgers was born 47 years ago today in New York. He studied classical
music and jazz before joining the house band at Harlem's Apollo Theater.
In 1970, Rodgers met bassist Bernard Edwards, with whom he formed the
rock-fusion Big Apple Band two years later. When Walter Murphy and his
Big Apple Band had a #1 smash in 1977 with the orchestral-disco single
"A Fifth of Beethoven," Rodgers and Edwards changed their group's name
to Chic to avoid confusion. The band also turned to the increasingly
popular disco style of music.
Atlantic Records was impressed with Chic's "Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah,
Yowsah, Yowsah)," which also included singers Norma Jean Wright and
Alfa Anderson, with drummer Tony Thompson. The single, featuring Rodgers'
distinctive rhythm guitar and Edwards' influential "sub-bass" sound,
soon became a million-seller. The cut was featured on the band's eponymous
1977 debut LP, which also included "Everybody Dance."
C'est Chic (1978) made the group disco superstars. It included
the five-million-selling #1 blockbuster "Le Freak," which began life as
"Fuck Off," a response to bouncers at legendary disco Studio 54 who wouldn't
let Rodgers and Edwards in for a planned meeting with singer Grace Jones.
The LP also spawned the top-10 "I Want Your Love."
Chic hit #1 again with "Good Times" (RealAudio
excerpt) from 1979's Risque. The song's infectious groove
inspired the Sugar Hill Gang's seminal rap song "Rapper's Delight" and
Queen's #1 smash "Another One Bites the Dust." Despite this success,
Chic split following 1983's Believer.
Though Rodgers issued a few solo albums, such as 1983's Adventures in
the Land of the Good Groove, he made his mark mostly as a producer.
With Edwards, Rodgers helped Debbie Harry go solo from Blondie with
KooKoo (1981). The two also helmed 1980's Diana by Diana
In addition to producing records by Peter Gabriel and Eric Clapton, Rodgers
helped rejuvenate the careers of David Bowie (Let's Dance) and
the B-52's (Cosmic Thing), and jumpstarted Mick Jagger's solo
records (She's the Boss). He also helped break Madonna into the
mainstream with 1984's Like a Virgin.
In 1992 Rodgers and Edwards regrouped as Chic with different supporting
musicians, but the resulting album didn't sell well. Still, the pair
toured, and Rodgers continued to perform Chic music after Edwards' death
This year, Chic's Live at the Budokan appeared. It featured Sister
Sledge, Steve Winwood and Slash of Guns n' Roses fame.
Other birthdays: Billy Ward, 78; Nick Massi (Four Seasons), 64; Bill
Medley (Righteous Brothers), 59; Sylvia Tyson (Ian & Sylvia), 59; Paul
Williams, 59; David Bromberg, 54; Lee Dorman (Iron Butterfly), 54; Freda
Payne, 54; John Coghlan (Status Quo), 53; Lawrence "Lol" Creme (10cc),
52; Daniel Lanois, 48; Rex Smith, 43; Trisha Yearwood, 35; and Cass
Elliot (Mamas and the Papas),1943-1974.