Inspired by the season and the December 4 birthdays of Jay-Z, The Beach Boys‘ Dennis Wilson, The Byrds’ Chris Hillman, Pansy Division’s Jon Ginoli, Freddy Cannon, Dionne Farris, Anna McGarrigle, Adamski and Southside Johnny.
Nile Rodgers, with his friend Bernard Edwards, formed the band Chic in the mid-1970s. The pair wrote and produced the group’s music. In 1978, they had their first top ten pop single, “Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah),” which went to #1 on the Disco/Dance chart and remained on top for eight weeks.
Later in 1978, Chic released “Le Freak,” which was #1 on the pop chart for six weeks and became the biggest-selling single in Atlantic Records’ history.
Two more top ten singles followed in 1979 – “I Want Your Love” and the #1 smash “Good Times.” Rodgers and Edwards also wrote and produced Sister Sledge’s We Are Family album, which spawned that quartet’s only top ten pop hits – “He’s the Greatest Dancer” and the classic title track.
By late 1979 a disco backlash hit hard in the US. Any act the public perceived as a disco act had trouble getting hit records. “Good Times” was to be Chic’s last top 40 single. Even in clubs the group faltered. “Good Times,” coupled with “My Feet Keep Dancing” and “My Forbidden Lover,” hit #3 on the Disco/Dance chart. Chic wouldn’t make the top ten on that chart again until 1992.
By 1980, Chic the band were considered over, just two years after they arrived. Luckily, Chic were more than a disco band, and one person who knew that was Suzanne de Passe. De Passe was the president of Motown Productions. She hired Rodgers and Edwards to work with Diana Ross, who hadn’t had a top ten single since “Love Hangover” in 1976. The resulting album, diana, sold over ten million copies and remains the singer’s biggest-selling album to date. (I should note that it wasn’t the Chic mix of the album that got released. We’ll save that story for another time.) It spawned the top ten smashes “Upside Down” (#1 for four weeks) and the classic “I’m Coming Out,” both Rodgers/Edwards compositions.
In 1982, Nile Rodgers met David Bowie at New York club The Continental. Bowie hired Rodgers to work with him on a new album. The result? Let’s Dance, co-produced by Bowie and Rodgers. The title track became Bowie’s first top ten single since 1976’s “Golden Years” and his second (and last) #1, with 1975’s “Fame” the first. “China Girl” and “Modern Love” were also hit singles.
1983 kept Rodgers busy, working with Paul Simon, INXS, Daryl Hall and John Oates and Southside Johnny. One night he went to New York’s Roxy to catch a performance by Jenny Burton. He was intrigued by Burton’s opening act, an up-and-coming singer who went by her first name, Madonna. By the summer of ‘84, Madonna had three pop hits – “Holiday,” “Borderline” and “Lucky Star” – under her belt. When it came time to record her sophomore album, she called on Nile Rodgers.
Madonna named her second album Like a Virgin. Its title track, produced by Nile Rodgers, became Madonna’s first #1 single, staying on top for six weeks. Other hits pulled from the album were “Material Girl,” “Angel” and “Dress You Up,” all produced by Rodgers. The album has sold 21 million copies worldwide.
I won’t go into detail about every artist Nile worked with, but here’s a partial list: Duran Duran, Mick Jagger, Debbie Harry, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Michael Jackson, Prince, Rod Stewart, Robert Plant, Depeche Mode, Peter Gabriel, Grace Jones, Bryan Ferry, Johnny Mathis, Kim Carnes, Jeff Beck, Thompson Twins, Sheena Easton, Laurie Anderson, Al Jarreau, Ric Ocasek, The B-52s, David Lee Roth, Michael Bolton, Adam Lambert and Daft Punk.
Today Nile Rodgers turns 62. As it’s Friday, and I need to dance dance dance yowsah yowsah yowsah, today’s playlist consists entirely of songs Rodgers worked on. Good times!
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