Nile Rodgers


Nile Rodgers
Nile Rodgers

Nile Rodgers at his Le Crib Studios. (1999)
Background information
Birth name Nile Gregory Rodgers
Born September 19, 1952 (1952-09-19) (age 59)
New York City, New York, United States
Origin New York City, New York
Genres Pop, rock, R&B, disco
Occupations Producer, song-writer, musician, composer, arranger, guitarist
Instruments Guitar
Years active 1970–present
Labels Sumthing Else Musicworks
Associated acts Chic, Sister Sledge, Madonna, Diana Ross, Duran Duran, David Bowie
Website Official Website
Official Facebook Artist Page

Nile Gregory Rodgers (born September 19, 1952, New York City) is an American musician, producer, composer, arranger, and guitarist.

Contents

Biography

Rodgers began his career as a session guitarist in New York, touring with the Sesame Street band in his teens, 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.

1970s

Nile met bassist Bernard Edwards in 1970. Together they formed The Big Apple Band that backed R&B act 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; the excuse was that black rock artists would be too hard to promote. The band continued playing mostly local bars.

Formation of Chic

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'." So Rodgers was inspired to try and create the black version of Roxy Music - and that was Chic.[1]

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" have become club/pop/R&B standards. "Le Freak" is Atlantic Records’ only triple platinum selling single and "Good Times" shot to the #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 #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 #1 on the R&B chart, and #6 and #2, respectively on the Pop chart. "He’s the Greatest Dancer" was sampled in 1998 to create 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.

1980s

The 80s were unquestionably Rodgers and Edwards’ most successful decade commercially. In 1980 they 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 its 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 co-produced their largest selling hit single, "The Reflex" in 1983 and followed up with "The Wild Boys" on their 1984 live album Arena.

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, The Thompson Twins, Mick Jagger, and many others, while still finding time to perform at Live Aid. He was awarded #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 #2 title track hit, "Notorious". During a live set, Simon Le Bon introduced 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 with Peter Gabriel on yet another soundtrack project, Laurie 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; they released a single album, Outloud, on Warner Brothers.

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.

1990s

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,[2] Jimmy 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 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 3, 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.

2000s

Rodgers focused on many soundtrack projects, film and video games alike. Among them were: Rush Hour 2, Snow Dogs and Semi-Pro starring 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 11th tragedies 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 Schechter filmed a documentary depicting the recording sessions called The Making and Meaning of We Are Family. The film was chosen as a Sundance 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.

2010s

Since 2007 Rodgers has been writing his autobiography to be published by Random House (Spiegel & Grau) and Little Brown, which is scheduled to be released in 2011. He continues to tour and produce live events since the reunion of The Chic Organization.

In October 2011, Rodgers worked with singer Adam Lambert in New York on material for Lambert's sophomore album. Both Rodgers and Lambert tweeted enthusiastically about the collaboration, and Rodgers also mentioned it on his blog [3]

Health Issues

In January 2011, Rodgers revealed on his website he is fighting cancer, which was diagnosed in October 2010.[4]

Selected discography

Chic

Solo

  • Adventures in the Land of the Good Groove (1983)
  • B-Movie Matinee (1985)
  • Outloud (1987)
  • Chic Freak and More Treats (1996)

Official production (partial)

Soundtracks

References

Biographical reference work

External links


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