Nile Rodgers, American guitarist, songwriter, and producer (Chic) was born 19 September 1952. He is the lead guitarist and co-founding member withBernard Edwards of the band Chic, which has been active since 1976.Although he recorded four solo act albums throughout the 80s and the 90s, Rodgers found more success in collaboration as producer and performer with many artists including Diana Ross, David Bowie, Duran Duran, Madonna, and more recently, French house duoDaft Punk and Swedish progressive house producer Avicii. He began his career as a session guitarist in New York, touring with the Sesame Street band in his teens led by Joe Raposo, and then working in the house band at Harlem’s world famous Apollo Theater, playing behind Screaming Jay Hawkins,Maxine Brown, Aretha Franklin, Ben E. King, Betty Wright, Earl Lewis and the Channels,Parliament Funkadelic, and many other legendary R&B artists.Nile met bassist Bernard Edwards in 1970. Together they formed New York City (“I’m Doing Fine Now”). The band’s one hit allowed them to tour extensively, even opening for The Jackson 5 on the American leg of their first world tour in 1973. The band dissolved after their second album failed to yield a hit, but Nile and Bernard joined forces with drummer Tony Thompson, and worked and recorded as a Funk Rock band called The Boys, which played numerous gigs up and down the East Coast. Despite major label interest in their demos, they could not get a record deal when the record companies discovered they were black, as they thought that black rock artists would be too hard to promote.
The band continued playing mostly LOcal Bars. As the Big Apple Band, Rodgers and Edwards worked with Ashford & Simpson, Luther Vandross, and many others. Since another New York artist, Walter Murphy, had a band also called The Big Apple Band, Rodgers and Edwards were forced to change their band’s name to avoid confusion. Thus, in 1977 the band was renamed as Chic. Rodgers has stated that a major inspiration was a Roxy Music gig he saw in London: “It was a totally immersive artistic experience – the crowd were fly, the band were fly, the music was textual, they were saying ‘come into my world’.”Between gigs they recorded their first album with then-boss Luther Vandross, who provided background vocals on the group’s early recordings. The band scored numerous top ten hits and helped propel disco to new levels of popularity. Chic’s chart-topping songs “Le Freak”, “I Want Your Love”, “Everybody Dance”, “Dance, Dance, Dance”, “My Forbidden Lover”, and “Good Times” became club/pop/R&B standards. “Le Freak” is Atlantic Records’ only triple platinum selling single and “Good Times” shot to the No. 1 spot in spite of the “Disco Sucks” backlash in 1979.The success of Chic’s first singles led Atlantic to offer Rodgers and Edwards the opportunity to produce any act on its roster. They chose Sister Sledge, whose 1978 album, We Are Family, peaked at No. 3 and remained on the charts well into 1979. The first two singles, “He’s the Greatest Dancer” and the title cut “We Are Family” both reached No. 1 on the R&B chart, and No. 6 and No. 2, respectively on the Pop chart. “He’s the Greatest Dancer” was sampled in 1998 on Will Smith’s “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It”.As the Chic Organization’s tight sound became increasingly sought-after, Rodgers and Edwards began record production with numerous artists, together or individually.In 1980 Rodgers and Edwards wrote and produced the album Diana for Diana Ross, yielding the smash hits “Upside Down” and “I’m Coming Out”. Chic’s song “Good Times” played a pivotal role in the explosion of hip hop music, as an interpolation of the song’s bass line and the record’s string-section sample was the bedrock of The Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight”, the first multiple-platinum Hip Hop single. The Chic Organization produced the smash hit “Spacer” for French disco act Sheila and B. Devotion and Deborah Harry’s 1981 solo album Koo Koo
.Chic dissolved in 1983 after their final contractual Atlantic album, Believer and Soup For One (a film soundtrack). At that time Rodgers began a solo career producing his first album Adventures in the Land of the Good Groove.Rodgers produced the 1983 album Talkback, by Canadian New Wave/New Romantic band Spoons, which included the hits “Old Emotions” and “The Rhythm”.Rodgers produced David Bowie’s biggest selling album Let’s Dance with several hit singles including “China Girl”, “Modern Love” and the title track, “Let’s Dance”. He produced the single “Original Sin” by INXS. Duran Duran worked extensively with Rodgers after he remixed their largest selling hit single, “The Reflex” in 1984 and followed up with “The Wild Boys” on their 1984 live album Arena. It was rumored that Rodgers had become a member of Duran Duran when they released the album “Big Thing”, but he only acted as a session musician on that album.That same year he produced Madonna’s blockbuster album Like a Virgin, spawning her two signature hits “Material Girl” and the album’s title track, “Like a Virgin”. He also joined Robert Plant’s platinum selling studio band The Honeydrippers, on the album The Honeydrippers: Volume One. This period sparked Rodgers’ interest in soundtracks, the first of which were Alphabet City, Gremlins (“Out Out” – Peter Gabriel) Against All Odds (“Walk Through the Fire” – Peter Gabriel), That’s Dancing (“Invitation to Dance” – Kim Carnes),White Nights (numerous songs) and The Fly (“Help Me” – Bryan Ferry).
In 1985 Rodgers produced albums for Sheena Easton, Jeff Beck, Thompson Twins, Mick Jagger, and many others, while still finding time to perform at Live Aid with the Thompson Twins. He was awarded No. 1 Singles Producer In the World in Billboard magazine to close out the year.In 1986, he produced Duran Duran’s Notorious album, which yielded a No. 2 title track hit, “Notorious”. During a live set, Simon Le Bonintroduced Rodgers by saying, “Well, this band went through a difficult time and it might not have made it if it weren’t for this gentleman.” Rodgers contributed to numerous other projects and appearances with members of the band throughout the 1980s. He also produced albums for Grace Jones, Earth Wind and Fire’s vocalist Phillip Bailey, and Al Jarreau. Rodgers performed on “Higher Love” with Steve Winwood, and records for Cyndi Lauper, Howard Jones, and David Sanborn. He then worked on the soundtrack forLaurie Anderson’s Home of the Brave.Rodgers formed the short-lived experimental band Outloud in 1987, with David Letterman’s guitarist, composer, and vocalist Felicia Collins and acclaimed French session musician, producer, composer, and keyboardist Philippe Saisse; the trio released a single album,Out Loud, on Warner Bros. Records.In 1988 Rodgers composed his first orchestral soundtrack for the film Coming to America (the second highest grossing film of the year) starring Eddie Murphy. Rodgers followed this with soundtracks for White Hot (the world’s first Hi-Def feature motion picture), and Earth Girls Are Easy. The latter would pair him with The B-52’s. In 1989 he co-produced their comeback multi-platinum album Cosmic Thing, which had the hit singles “Love Shack”, “Roam”, “Cosmic Thing” and “Deadbeat Club”. That year he also produced Workin’ Overtime,Diana Ross’ return to Motown, a deal that scored her an executive position at the label, along with releases by the Dan Reed Network, Slam, and Duran Duran’s compilation, Decade, which was appropriately titled. It was the most successful decade for Rodgers and also for many of the artists he worked with
In September 1990, Epic Records released the Rodgers produced Vaughan Brothers album,Family Style, shortly after the untimely death of guitar virtuoso Stevie Ray Vaughan. Early in this decade he also produced projects for David Bowie, Eric Clapton, The B-52s, David Lee Roth, Ric Ocasek, The Dan Reed Network, Cathy Dennis, Patty Griffin, jimmie Vaughan, The Stray Cats and many other artists, along with continuing soundtrack work on Thelma and Louise, Cool World and The Beavis and Butt-head Experience (co-writer of “Come to Butt-head”). After a 1992 birthday party where Rodgers, Bernard Edwards, Paul Shaffer and Anton Fig played old Chic hits to rapturous response. Rodgers and Edwards reformed a new version of Chic. They recorded a fresh crop of material for the album Chic-Ism and performed live worldwide.In 1995, he plays on the track Money from Michael Jackson’s album HIStory.In 1996, Rodgers was honored as the JT Super Producer of the year. He performed with Edwards, Sister Sledge, Steve Winwood, Simon Le Bon and Slash in a series of commemorative concerts in Japan, which provided a career retrospective. Unfortunately, his longtime musical partner and close friend Bernard Edwards died of pneumonia during the trip, a blow that Rodgers took very hard. A year later Rodgers returned to Japan to pay homage to his fallen partner.He started playing live concerts again while composing and producing music for film soundtracks: Beverly Hills Cop III, Blue Chips, The Flintstones and Feeling Minnesota (working with Bob Dylan) to name but a few.In 1998, Rodgers founded Sumthing Else Music Works record label and Sumthing Distribution, an independent music label distributor. Sumthing focuses on distributing a fast-growing new genre: video game soundtracks. Its titles include the complete Halo and Resident Evil franchises and other well-known Triple-A game soundtracks like Gears of War and Borderlands. Rodgers focused on many soundtrack projects, film and video games alike. Among them were: Rush Hour 2, Snow Dogs and Semi-Prostarring Will Ferrell, who co-wrote the title song “Love Me Sexy” with Rodgers.
In 2002–2003 he co-produced Astronaut, with the original five members of Duran Duran.Also in 2002, Rodgers appeared on the Red Hot Organization’s compilation CD, Red Hot and Riot. The CD, a tribute to the music and positive social message of afropop pioneer, Fela Kuti, featured Rodgers on remakes of Kuti songs, “Water No Get Enemy” and “Zombie (Part Two).” He appeared on “Water No Get Enemy” alongside influential hip hop and R&B artists, D’Angelo, Macy Gray, and The Soultronics and on “Zombie (Part Two)” with famous jazz trumpeteer, Roy Hargrove. All proceeds of the CD were donated to charities working towards greater AIDS awareness.The September 11 attacks prompted Rodgers to create the We Are Family Foundation (WAFF) to help promote the healing process. To begin, he organized a re-recording of the song he and Edwards wrote for Sister Sledge called “We Are Family” with more than 200 musicians, celebrities, and personalities. Director Spike Lee filmed the “We Are Family” music video and director Danny Schechterfilmed a documentary depicting the recording sessions called The Making and Meaning of We Are Family. The film was chosen as aSundance Film Festival Special Selection in 2002. Rodgers then produced another “We Are Family” music video involving more than 100 beloved children’s television characters. The children’s music video airs as a public service announcement on Disney Channel,Nickelodeon, and PBS stations promoting a common humanity and celebrating the vision of a global family.Rodgers received the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) NY Chapter’s Governor’s Lifetime Achievement Award and the Heroes Award. On September 19, 2005, he was honored at the Dance Music Hall of Fame in New York when he was inducted for his many outstanding achievements as a producer, along with former bandmate Bernard Edwards.Chic has been nominated to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame four times – 2003, 2006, 2007 and 2008. Rodgers served as co-musical director for the tribute concert to Ahmet Ertegün at the Montreux Jazz Festival in the summer of 2006. The concert included performances by Chic, Robert Plant, Steve Winwood, Stevie Nicks, Kid Rock, Ben E. King, Chaka Khan, George Duke (co-music director),Paolo Nutini and many other artists who were signed to Ertegün’s Atlantic Records. A PBS documentary, Atlantic Records: The House That Ahmet Built, uses footage from this show, as it was one of the last times Ertegün would be captured on video.Rodgers wrote an autobiography entitled Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco, and Destiny that was published in late 2011.
He has additionally stayed active in music since the reunion of The Chic Organization by touring and producing live events. In recent years, he has continued to collaborate with an array of musicians.In October 2011, Rodgers worked with singer Adam Lambert in New York on a song entitled “Shady” for Lambert’s second album, Trespassing. Both Rodgers and Lambert tweeted enthusiastically about the collaboration, and Rodgers also mentioned it on his blog Planet C.In February 2012, Rodgers announced that he is collaborating with electronic band Daft Punkfor their latest album, “teasing out their R&B influences”.During a live interview for the UMFTV at the 2013 Ultra Music Festival in Miami, Rodgers confirmed that he was working with Daft Punk as well as recording multiple tracks with Avicii, and mentioned work with Chase & Status and Felix da Housecat .On March 31, BBC Four broadcast a documentary about his music life, Nile Rodgers: The Hitmaker., starting from the point that Chic was formed until now, with the stories about how he was involved in producing numerous hits and albums for some of the world`s best artist and bands.In 2013, Rodgers appeared on Daft Punk’s chart-topping album, Random Access Memories. Rodgers co-wrote and played guitar on three tracks: “Give Life Back to Music”, “Lose Yourself to Dance”, and “Get Lucky”. On 21 April 2013, the “Get Lucky” single entered at number 3 in the official UK Singles Chart, despite being available for little more than 24 hours. Spotify announced it had become the most streamed song in the UK and the U.S. over a 24-hour period in its five-year history. “Get Lucky” rose to number 1 in the UK on the 28 April 2013 and went on to be certified as Rodgers’ first million-selling single in that country. Rodgers also appears in televised trailer advertising the album. Rodgers has expressed a wish to perform the song live alongside Daft Punk, but that he will not perform it in his own shows as he feels it is not “his” song to play. In August 2013, the track “Mandou Bem” was released by the Brazilian band Jota Quest and with the participation of Nile Rodgers.C. In January 2011, Rodgers revealed on his website that he has prostate cancer, which was diagnosed in October 2010. As a result, he has started a “Cancer Blog”, detailing his status and upcoming projects, as of 2013, he was pronounced all clear.