It's the nature of music and songs of all genres to help define our lives, and to have threaded and woven through our days and nights with an impact in most aspects of our experiences, many times without our realizing it. Hearing a particular song can evoke emotions running anywhere within the full gamut, from serving as a reminder of happiness, to abject sorrow and just about anything in between.
For those of us who lived through the seventies NY disco era, Nile Rodgers, with his collaborator, the late Bernard Edwards, was at the forefront with their band Chic. "Good Times," "Le Freak," "I Want Your Love," "Everybody Dance" and all of the Sister Sledge hits like "We Are Family" and "He's The Greatest Dancer" not only made us move, they made us feel invincible and immortal in a way, shedding the lows of life for the highs of losing oneself in the beat. We may have left behind those nights of getting on the train at midnight, riding down to Palladium, Infinity, Adam's Apple, Xenon, Studio 54 or any one of the myriad clubs-of-that-day and dancing until dawn, but those nights have never really left us. The songs of that day still resonate with an unspoiled freshness, and remain a distinct part of our musical narrative.
In addition to Chic and Sister Sledge lighting up the disco floors, the hitmaking duo of Rodgers and Edwards also wrote and produced mega-hits for Diana Ross, and Nile went on to do the same for David Bowie, Debbie Harry, Duran Duran, Madonna, INXS, Robert Plant, Jeff Beck, Thompson Twins, Mick Jagger, Al Jarreau, Steve Winwood, B-52's, the Vaughan Brothers and Michael Jackson, among others. Nile's signature funky rhythm guitar can be heard all over the landscape of so many of these songs, and his touch of genius reverberates within each.
Over recent years, we've had the pleasure of sitting in on several interviews with Nile, who has talked about his storied career and humble beginnings. As a hippie kid in NYC who was “all about jazz and be-bop,” his musical education suddenly expanded to include "music that makes people feel" when he and Bernard began to crank out hit after hit. He spoke of going to a club that would not let him in based on his torn jeans until he told the bouncer he wrote "Everybody Dance" which was being blasted on that very dance floor by the resident DJ every five minutes. He was not only then ushered in like a king, but in an instant, he rocketed to stardom.
When Nile worked with David Bowie on "Let's Dance," he convinced Bowie to "start with the hook, because if that’s the part everybody is going to sing, do that first." The result, of course, was a smash hit for Bowie, and Nile had already followed his own advice by starting with the hook for most of his and Bernard's mega-hits. He noted "Le Freak" started out with a breakdown AND the hook, and remains one of their biggest recordings.
In subsequent years, Nile has not slowed down in the least, and he told of how "these two French guys called Daft Punk" had recently called asking to play a demo for him. He talked about how they had been composing music "in their bedroom" (quite successfully) for years, and "playing with human beings" is what they wanted to do. The result was the huge hit "Get Lucky," featuring Pharrell Williams, reaching the top ten in the music charts of over 32 countries. It has sold more than 9.3 million copies, making it one of the best-selling songs of all time, also winning awards for Record of the Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards. Nile and Bernard are 2016 Songwriters Hall of Fame and 2017 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees and have garnered multiple other important accolades in their careers.
But more importantly than all of that is the creative fire that continues to burn bright within Nile Rodgers. A cancer survivor and a warrior at life, his muse is channelled through his constant outpouring of songs and ideas that crackle out of his fingers and onto the strings of his faithful 1960 Stratocaster called the "Hitmaker," that Rodgers fortuitously bought in Miami Beach in 1973. The guitar has been with him on his journeys ever since, and the result of their collaboration has been a melodic gift to the world.