Personalities | Nile Rodgers | The Funky Craftsman | Guitar Heroes
As a session guitarist, co-leader of the smash late-Seventies band Chic and star-making producer, Nile Rodgers (b. 1952) combined genres to create unexpected hits seemingly out of thin air.
His funky guitar playing (along with partner Bernard Edwards’ bass) helped make Chic the most successful non-disco disco band, and his innate sense of rock and soul made a mega-star out of Madonna, a long-lasting artist out of Duran Duran and a comeback kid out of Diana Ross.
Nile Gregory Rodgers was born in New York. He played with the Sesame Street band in his teens, and then worked in the house band at Harlem’s Apollo Theater, backing big-name artists. He met Bernard Edwards in 1970. They formed a rock band called the Boys (later the Big Apple Band) but couldn’t land a record deal.
In 1977 Rodgers and Edwards joined forces with drummer Tony Thompson to form the funk/R&B band Chic. The band scored numerous Top 10 hits, including ‘Everybody Dance’, ‘Le Freak’ and ‘Good Times’, and helped propel the disco craze. The band’s sound turned Rodgers and Edwards into coveted producers. One of their early successes was the group Sister Sledge and their rock and soul anthem ‘We Are Family’.
In 1980 the team produced Diana Ross’s album Diana with its hits ‘Upside Down’ and ‘I’m Coming Out’. Then, in 1983, they produced David Bowie’s album Let’s Dance, and in 1984 helmed Madonna’s blockbuster album Like A Virgin. Duran Duran worked extensively with Rodgers after he produced the hit single ‘The Reflex’ in 1983 and followed up with ‘The Wild Boys’ for their 1984 live album Arena. Rodgers contributed to several other projects by Duran Duran in the Eighties and Nineties, as well as the 2003 reunion album Astronaut.
Rodgers and Edwards reunited Chic in the Nineties for a successful tour, but in 1996, while on a tour of Japan, his partner Bernard Edwards died of pneumonia. Rodgers later formed a music distribution company and headed several efforts on behalf of victims of the 2001 terrorist attacks. But to guitarists he will always be the funky craftsman behind ‘Good Times’, ‘Material Girl’, and ‘Let’s Dance’.
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