Nile Rodgers - The Chic OrganizationWritten by Matteo Sedazzari
© Words Matteo Sedazzari
It would unfair to say that Nile Rodgers is having a renaissance, as his music has never gone away nor has it aged, be it Sister Sledge or Chic, timeless classics that still enthral and pulsate any dance floor, regardless of age. I remember back in my days of clubbing, late eighties to early nighties, that Sister Sledge’s Thinking of You became a club anthem, the smiles on the dancers faces were truly beautiful,
an uplifting disco, soul and funk track with a strong back beat, the thumping bass line of his partner Bernard Edwards, (31st October 1952 – 18th April 18 1996 ). Perhaps one of the best bass players ever and the smooth rhythmic funk , disco r ‘n’ b trade mark sound of Nile Rodgers, played on his 1959 Fender Stratocaster. The guitar itself is meant to have earned Rodgers £1.3billion, nick-named The Hitmaker, and his track record certainly confirms this. In addition to his recent success with the collaboration of Daft Punk and Pharrell Williams on the disco influenced track Get Lucky, and wooing the crowds at this year’s Glastonbury, Nile Rodgers’ profile has increased, and rightly so.
Rodgers is an amazing guitarist, a legend like Hendrix and a gifted song writer. In partnership with Edwards they wrote global hits, which puts them on a par with Lennon & McCartney, Jagger & Richards, Dozier and Holland and as a producer he is up there with Motown legend Berry Gordy and sixties Svengali Andrew Loog Oldham. All in all he is one talented individual, with a successful career to match, not bad for a self-taught kid from New York, from loving, yet by all accounts, drug using parents. However they did introduce their son to jazz legends Miles Davis, John Coltrane and James Brown, and it was Brown’s guitarist Jimmy Nolen that made Rodgers fall in love with the funky sound of a guitar. Before hitting the big time, he had tuned in and dropped out with Timothy Leary, strummed alongside Jimi Hendrix and been inspired by Huey Newton and The Black Panthers. He had participated in many marches with them, and Rodgers also taught martial arts to them. Furthermore, his skills as a guitarist were increasing daily due to being a member of the legendary house party at The Apollo in Harlem, and backing such bands as Aretha Franklin, Parliament Funkadelic, Ben E. King, and The Cadillacs. What an amazing cultural and creative foundation, all achieved and explored before he hit 19. When he turned 19 he wanted to a star in his own right, and set out to form his own band. Rodgers found Bernard Edwards, whilst cutting their teeth at a night club in New York, Le Jardin, a club for gays and straights, where another house band that would become a worldwide success but in another genre, Kiss, were playing who, like Edwards and Rodgers, were unknown and again the former and the latter would become superstars. People may go on about Studio 54 as the mecca of New York night life in the seventies and early eighties, but I bet Le Jardin was the true hip place to meet like-minded people. Chic was born, their sound disco, soul and funk and their philosophy, Bernard Edwards perhaps says it best , “it’s about a good vibe, it's about a good groove, and it's about good clothes”, true Mod sensibilities don’t you think.
Furthermore, like all classic bands, there are many anecdotes from the history of Chic. For instance how Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards were refused entry to Studio 54 one New Years Eve, went home wrote Fxxk off, changed the words to Freak Out, which became a massive hit, and then they were on the guest list every night at Studio 54. In addition, it was at Studio 54 that Bernard Edwards heard Sugar Hill’s Gang Rapper’s Delight for the first time. Edwards thought that it was a DJ rapping over the bass line of ‘Good Times’. When Bernard realised that he was being ripped off, he sought the blood of the Sugarhill Gang. The heavies of the Sugarhill Gang retaliated to his threat by putting a gun to the head of the co- songwriter of ‘Good Times’. Little did they know that Bernard Edward’s and Nile Rodgers’ lawyer had strong Mafia connections. The result was The Sugarhill Gang’s heavies paid Edwards and Rodgers half a million dollars in used notes. There was peace on the streets of New York that night. Nile Rodgers’ and the career of Chic, is certainly worth more than two paragraphs. Rodgers recent autobiography Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco and Destiny will cover these and much more.
Aside from Rodger’s life and look, music is the most important aspect of his career, and for the first time, a collection of his works has been presented on a double CD or 25 MP’s downloads, 35 years of work and this is just the tip of the iceberg. A CD that can easily be played from start to finish, beginning on Disc One with Chic’s Le Freak and closing on Disc Two with Chic Chic Cheer. As the listener you are treated to a breathtaking, debonair, melodic and grandiose voyage into the world of Nile Rodgers. All the hits from Chic and Sister Sledge are here, as well as lesser known tracks like Debbie Harry (of Blondie) Backfired, a turn and sinister disco track with a great groove, and the poignant Johnny Mathis I Love My Lady, a wonderful and powerful love song. And when Shelia & B Devotion Spacer comes out of the speakers or your headphones, you are mesmerised by this elegant and stylish dance track. The reggae influenced Carly Simon Why, is a marvel and hypnotic. It is hard to pinpoint any favourites as Nile Rodgers delivers top quality music, yet for me, I had to play the extended version of Sister Sledge’s We Are Family. As the music fades from the commercial version of the song it evolves into a classic free fall soul track, with Edwards and Rodgers taking the music to the next level, and Sister Sledge’s lead vocalist Kathy Sledge breaks away from her usual pop soul voice and starts to let rip. I knew she could sing, but here she proves to be a powerful vocalist, it is truly astonishing. With Nile Rodgers hitting sixty last year, (and looking good for his age) it is fitting that his contribution is celebrated here, and if the last 12 months for him are anything to go by, it will be a long time before his beloved Fender is put into storage.
Get The Chic Organization - Up All Night (The Greatest Hits) Here