Nile Rodgers' contribution to popular music has been extremely significant, whether it be penning some of the most influential and popular songs of the disco era with Chic, or producing countless hits for a wide variety of other artists.
Born September 19, 1952 in New York, New York, it was clear that Rodgers possessed exceptional musical talent early on, and by the age of 19, was playing guitar as part of the house band for the world famous Apollo Theatre (playing alongside the likes of Aretha Franklin, Funkadelic, etc.). Rodgers soon grew tired of his status as a backup musician, however, and sought to put together a band of his own. He found a like-minded musician in another New York City resident, bassist Bernard Edwards, during the early '70s. For the next few years, Rodgers and Edwards collaborated together, while playing in such obscure bands as the jazz fusion-based Big Apple Band, and the new wave-based Allah & the Knife Wielding Punks. But the duo's love remained in dance music, and their next musical project would put them on the map, as they formed Chic. With exceptional drummer Tony Thompson plus singers Norma Jean Wright and Alfa Anderson rounding out the lineup, Chic quickly grabbed a record deal with Atlantic.
Almost immediately, Chic became the kings (and queens) of the dance/disco domain, scoring such hit albums as 1977's Chic, 1978's C'est Chic, and 1979's Risqué. But it was Chic's up-tempo, infectious hit singles that became dancefloor standards, including "Dance Dance Dance (Yowsah Yowsah Yowsah)," and especially a pair of chart-toppers, "Le Freak" and "Good Times." With the dawn of the '80s came the infamous, massive disco backlash, which Chic got caught up in, as their albums sold less and less, resulting in the group's split in 1983. But Rodgers' music career was just beginning. Towards the end of his tenure in Chic, he had begun producing (and writing for) other artists, including hits for Sister Sledge ("We Are Family") and Diana Ross ("I'm Coming Out"). So with Chic no longer occupying most of his time, Rodgers was free to focus solely on working with others. What followed was an amazing string of some of the '80s biggest albums and singles. First up was David Bowie, who was looking for a musical makeover. Rodgers sure did deliver with 1983's Let's Dance, which remains Bowie's all-time best-selling album. From there, offers from others flooded in, as Rodgers scored further hits -- Duran Duran's Arena, Madonna's Like a Virgin, Mick Jagger's She's the Boss, Jeff Beck's Flash, The B-52's' Roam, and the Vaughan Brothers' Family Style, among countless others.
Additionally, Rodgers found the time during this hectic period to issue a pair of solo albums, 1983's Adventures in the Land of the Good Groove and 1985's B-Movie Matinee, although they failed to match the success of his work with others. Rodgers and Edwards put together a reunited version of Chic in the early '90s (with an all-new supporting cast), which toured and even issued an album, 1992's Chic-Ism. Rodgers was saluted with his own 'tribute' show in Japan on April 18, 1996, which saw Rodgers joined on-stage by his old pal Edwards, as well as Sister Sledge, Steve Winwood, Simon LeBon, and Slash. Despite it being an evening of celebration, Edwards tragically passed away from pneumonia later that same night. Rodgers continued to be active, including as the founder of the We Are Family Foundation, and produced Duran Duran's "comeback" album, which featured all their original members. Rodgers also owns his own national music distribution company, Sumthing Distribution, which specializes in video game soundtracks. ~ Greg Prato, Rovi