Nile Rodgers

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Nile Rodgers
Nile Rodgers, 2012
Background information
Birth name Nile Gregory Rodgers
Born (1952-09-19) September 19, 1952 (age 61)
New York, New York, United States
Genres Disco, soul, R&B, rock, funk
Occupations Producer, songwriter, musician, composer, arranger, guitarist
Instruments Guitar, Vocals
Years active 1970–present
Labels Warner Music Group, Sumthing Else Musicworks, Atlantic Records
Associated acts Chic, Sister Sledge, Sugarhill Gang, The Honeydrippers, Diana Ross, David Bowie, Madonna, Thompson Twins, Duran Duran, INXS, Mick Jagger, Grace Jones, B-52's, Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Vaughan Brothers, Sheila B. Devotion, Jeff Beck, Peter Gabriel, Daft Punk, Pharrell Williams, Avicii, Disclosure, Sam Smith, Adam Lambert, David Guetta, Nicky Romero, Sam Sparro, Joe Raposo, Tensnake, Chase & Status
Website Official Website
Official Facebook Artist Page
Official Twitter Page

Nile Gregory Rodgers (born September 19, 1952) is a multi Grammy award winning American musician, producer, composer, arranger, and guitarist. He is the lead guitarist and co-founding member with Bernard Edwards of the band Chic, which has been active since 1976.

Although he recorded three solo albums during the 1980s and '90s, and one as part of the short-lived group Outloud, Rodgers has found more success in collaboration as producer and performer with many artists including Sister Sledge, Diana Ross, David Bowie, Duran Duran, Madonna, and more recently, French house duo Daft Punk, Swedish progressive house producer Avicii, Disclosure and Sam Smith.

Life and career[edit]

Early life[edit]

Rodgers was born in New York City. 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 Screamin' 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 when both were working as touring musicians for the Sesame Street stage show. Together they formed The Big Apple Band, and worked as back-up musicians for the vocal group New York City ("I'm Doin' Fine Now"). New York City’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.[citation needed] The band continued playing mostly local bars.

Formation of Chic[edit]

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'.[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" became club/pop/R&B standards. "Le Freak" was composed after being turned away from Studio 54, after being invited by Grace Jones. [2] "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 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".

Nile Rodgers and David Bowie during the "Let's Dance" sessions at The Power Station, NYC.

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 Notorious, but he only acted as a co-producer and 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". The album saw an unofficial reunion of Chic's core members, with Rodgers, Edwards, drummer Tony Thompson and keyboard player Robert Sabino all contributing. Rodgers 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 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 on the soundtrack for 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; 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.


Nile Rodgers at his Le Crib Studios, 1999

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,[3] 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 played on the track "Money" from Michael Jackson's album HIStory.

In 1996, Rodgers released the album Chic Freak and More Treats in Japan, containing re-recordings of old Chic material with guest vocalists including Ashford and Simpson, Taja Sevelle, Simon Le Bon and Christopher Max. Bernard Edwards also appeared, alongside regular Chic vocalist Sylver Logan Sharp and drummer Omar Hakim.

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-Pro starring Will Ferrell, who co-wrote the title song “Love Me Sexy” with Rodgers. In 2002–03 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)". Rodgers 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 trumpeter 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 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 nine times – 2003, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. 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.


Nile Rodgers receiving three Grammy's for his work with Daft Punk on Random Access Memories

In 2010, Rhino Records released a four-CD box set, Nile Rodgers Presents The Chic Organization, Volume 1: Savoir Faire, which for the first time collected tracks from all of the acts produced by The Chic Organization up to their original break-up in 1983. Rodgers provided sleevenotes for the set, which was also reissued in 2013.

Rodgers wrote his autobiography entitled Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco, and Destiny that was published in late 2011.[4] He has additionally stayed active in music since the reunion of The Chic Organization by touring as CHIC ft. Nile Rodgers and producing live events. In recent years, he has continued to collaborate with an array of musicians including his 2014 three-time Grammy Award winning collaboration with Daft Punk, Avicii, Disclosure and Sam Smith among many others.

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.[5]

In February 2012, Rodgers announced that he was collaborating with electronic band Daft Punk for their latest album, "teasing out their R&B influences".[6] During a live interview for the UMFTV at the 2013 Ultra Music Festival in Miami, Rodgers confirmed that he was working with Daft Punk,[7] as well as recording multiple tracks with Avicii, and mentioned work with Chase & Status and Felix da Housecat.

On March 31, 2013 BBC Four broadcast a documentary about his music life, Nile Rodgers: The Hitmaker,[8] starting from the point that Chic was formed until the present, including stories about his involvement in producing numerous hits and albums for some of the world`s best artist and bands.

On June 28, 2013 CHIC ft. Nile Rodgers performed at the Glastonbury Festival in the UK. "My favorite act at this year’s Glastonbury, when I went, was not the Rolling Stones, as great as they were; was not the Arctic Monkeys, as good as they were; was not Disclosure, as good as they were; but it was Chic. They were fucking mega. Absolutely out of this world." [9]- Noel Gallagher

In August 2013, the track "Mandou Bem" was released by the Brazilian band Jota Quest with the participation of Nile Rodgers.[10]

Rodgers co-produced and played guitar on Tensnake's track "Love Sublime" featuring Nile Rodgers and Fiora.

Daft Punk, Pharrell and Nile Rodgers during "Get Lucky" and "Lose Yourself To Dance" video shoot in LA, Feb 2013

True to his word, in 2013 Rodgers performed 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 April 21, 2013 "Get Lucky" entered the official UK Singles Chart at No. 3, despite having been available for little more than 24 hours, and rose to No. 1 on April 28, 2013. Rodgers initially declined to perform the song live as he felt it was not "his" song to play,[citation needed] but at Chic's live shows in 2013, the record would usually be played immediately after the group's set, with Rodgers remaining on stage to lead the crowd in clapping and singing along. After Rodgers performed the song with Daft Punk at the Grammy Awards in January 2014, "Get Lucky" was finally added to the setlist for Chic's live dates in 2014.

Janelle Monae opened for CHIC ft. Nile Rodgers at the iTunes Festival in London on September 14, 2013.

On October 10, 2013, Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards were nominated to the Songwriters Hall of Fame.[11]

CHIC ft. Nile Rodgers, opened The X Factor (UK TV series) live show on November 2, 2013 for Disco week. They performed a medley of hits including "Le Freak", "He's The Greatest Dancer" and "Good Times".

Nile Rodgers, Stevie Wonder and Pharrell performing on the 2014 Grammy Award Show on January 26, 2014

On January 26, 2014 Rodgers performed "Get Lucky" with Daft Punk on the Grammy Awards, along with Pharrell Williams and Stevie Wonder, with a medley including elements of Chic's "Le Freak" and Wonder's "Another Star". Rodgers won three Grammy Awards for his work with Daft Punk and Random Access Memories including Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, Record of the Year and Album of the Year.

In March 2014, Rolling Stone named Nile Rodgers one of the 50 Most Important People in EDM[12], stating, "The full scope of Nile Rodgers' career is still hard to fathom, and it's not just ongoing, it's in overdrive."

Nile Rodgers and Prince performing "Let's Dance" at the Superdome for 2014 Essence Festival. Photo by IAmMisterD

On July 4, 2014, CHIC ft. Nile Rodgers headlined the 2014 Essence Festival curated by Prince. Special guests performing with Chic during a segment of the show that highlighted Chic's songwriting and production work for other artists, were Kathy Sledge for Sister Sledge's "We Are Family", Janelle Monae for Sister Sledge's "He's The Greatest Dancer" and Prince for David Bowie's "Let's Dance".

Rodgers' solo single "Do What You Wanna Do (IMS Anthem)" was released in July 2014 to benefit his We Are Family Foundation.

CHIC ft. Nile Rodgers is scheduled to headline Bestival on September 7, 2014 on the Isle of Wight, UK. [13]

The Hitmaker[edit]

Fender Custom Shop Artist Series Nile Rodgers Hitmaker Stratocaster, Limited Edition of 100

The Fender Custom Shop introduced the limited edition Nile Rodgers Hitmaker Stratocaster guitar in January 2014. It’s a very special recreation of the “Hitmaker”—the well-worn 1960 Stratocaster played by Chic co-founder and revered session ace Rodgers on countless chart-topping songs.

The sounds of Nile Rodgers and the Hitmaker are virtually inescapable. As a guitarist, producer, composer and arranger, his sales have topped more than 100 million albums over a career now in its sixth decade, and hardly a day goes by when you don’t hear music to which he has contributed in some invaluable way, very often with the Hitmaker in hand. He wrote the book on disco/R&B guitar in the late 1970s with Chic and Sister Sledge, propelling both acts to the top of the charts with unerringly radio-friendly musicianship, songwriting and production chops.

Rodgers’ affectionately nicknamed Hitmaker is a 1960 Stratocaster with a 1959 neck. He got it for a trade-in long ago at a small shop in Miami Beach, Fla. Exceptionally light in weight; it has a maple fingerboard and bears a well-worn white finish. Rodgers says it doesn’t sound like any other Stratocaster in the world. The Fender Custom Shop Nile Rodgers Hitmaker Stratocaster features a light alder body and one-piece straight-grain maple neck, with a 9.5”-radius maple fingerboard, 21 6105 frets, three Custom Shop 1969 single-coil Stratocaster pickups, five-way switching, chrome-plated brass pickguard, three white “speed” knobs, vintage-style hard-tail bridge, locking Sperzel® tuners and a worn Relic® lacquer finish in Olympic White.[14]


In January 2011 Rodgers revealed on his website that he had prostate cancer, which had been diagnosed in October 2010. As a result, he started a cancer blog called "Walking on Planet C" detailing his status and upcoming projects.[15]

On July 29, 2013 Rodgers posted on Twitter that he had been given the all-clear regarding his cancer.[16]

In November 2013 he gave an interview to BBC News talking about Daft Punk, Madonna, Diana Ross and beating cancer.[17]

Selected discography[edit]



Production (partial)[edit]



  1. ^ "Nile Rodgers interviewed by Peter Paphides". November 10, 2011. Retrieved November 13, 2011.
  2. ^ Shapiro pp.158-9.
  3. ^ "Harris, Craig. (accessed 17 March, 2008)". Billboard. Retrieved March 26, 2012. 
  4. ^ Christopher Silvester (November 18, 2011). "Le Freak by Nile Rodgers". Daily Express. UK. 
  5. ^ Rodgers, Nile. "Nile Rodgers' blog". Retrieved March 26, 2012. 
  6. ^ "Daft Punk in Talks With Nile Rodgers for New Album | News". Pitchfork. February 7, 2012. Retrieved March 26, 2012. 
  7. ^ "YouTube". YouTube. Retrieved 2014-07-15. 
  8. ^ "Nile Rodgers: The Hitmaker", BBC Four.
  9. ^
  10. ^ Medeiros, Estefani (10 July 2013). "Gravando com Nile Rodgers, Rogério Flausino diz que "novo álbum do Jota Quest é para dançar"". Universo Online. Retrieved 13 August 2013. 
  11. ^ "Songwriters Hall Of Fame 2014 Nominees For Induction Announced". SongHall. Retrieved 2014-07-15. 
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ "''Walking on Planet C'', Nile Rodger's Cancer Blog". Retrieved March 26, 2012. 
  16. ^ Ferreira, Sky (July 29, 2013). "Instead of showing…". Twitter. Retrieved July 31, 2013. 
  17. ^ "Nile Rodgers on music, Madonna and Glastonbury". Retrieved March 3, 2013. 


External links[edit]