Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Nile Rodgers & CHIC: Chic is the word

Nile Rodgers & CHIC: Heritage Live, Hampstead Heath, London 12/6/20
Nile Rodgers & CHIC: Heritage Live, Hampstead Heath, London 12/6/20 Nile Rodgers & CHIC: Heritage Live, Hampstead Heath, London 12/6/20 Nile Rodgers & CHIC: Heritage Live, Hampstead Heath, London 12/6/20 Nile Rodgers & CHIC: Heritage Live, Hampstead Heath, London 12/6/20

Nile Rodgers will be appearing with his chart-topping band Chic at a very special show at an extra special venue on June 20. Kenwood House on London's Hampstead Heath will play host to one of the most iconic bands of the 70s/80s, who's instantly recognisable disco tunes and superstar frontman have seen the band and Nile Rodgers popularity grow exponentially in recent years to reach legendary status. Rodgers, the comeback king, people's hero, disco god or whatever you want to call him, is that artist. A modern music icon of our time who has earned his stripes through hard work, determination, a little luck and a lot of talent. A fighter, of the there is no doubt, with a fascinating story to tell.

67-year-old Nile Gregory Rodgers Jr. was born in the Lower East Side in New York in 1952. Rodgers would be the first to say he had an unhappy upbringing, his mother fell pregnant with him at 13 and became addicted to drugs soon after. During that time Rodgers was beaten, abused and was left on his own for most of his childhood. At that time his father, an Afro-Cuban beats playing percussionist, rarely made contact. To earn money to live, Rodgers turned to singing. Little did he know, this dalliance with music was the start of his destiny.

His mother did marry sometime later but drugs were to take a toll on not only her relationship but also on Rodgers, who turned to drugs himself at the tender age of 13. Drugs and then drink was to blight his life for some 40+ years, until finally conquering his addictions in 1993, after a night of partying the night away with Madonna among others.

It may surprise you to hear that his first instrument of choice wasn't the guitar, funnily enough, Rodgers played the clarinet and flute before he picked up the guitar aged 16. His music of choice at that time was a mix of jazz, Latin, Parisian, Afro-beat and boogaloo, which was popular at that time.

During a previous B&S interview Rodgers mentions ”I sleep with my guitar. The great thing about any girlfriend I may have at any time, they already know that my guitar is like if you had a pet dog. The dog was here before you! Either in the bed or right next to the bed. At some point in time, it will be in the bed and I will be playing before I go to sleep." Maybe the need to have his trusty guitar to hand at all times could be traced to his childhood and his lack of material items mixed with the reassuring feeling music has given Rodgers over the years.

It's Rodgers association with disco royals Chic which the multi-Grammy winning, Rock & Roll and Songwriters Hall Of Fame inductee is probably best known. After meeting bass guitar playing singer, songwriter, producer and fellow great, Bernard Edwards, who in the early 70s worked in a post office with the mother of Rodgers then-girlfriend. The two would go on become best friends and then bandmates, as they formed a band called the Big Apple (’72-'76), it was during 1976 the dynamic disco duo met drummer Tony Thompson, then eventually Norma Jean Right, who together became colossal hitmakers, Chic.

In 1977 the film Saturday Night helped disco reach fever pitch levels, born from discotheques at the start of the '70s, this style of music the fab foursome took to like a duck to water, as they released their eponymous debut that year. Uber cool "Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)" was the first release from the album and reached #1 in the US dance chart and was a top 10 hit in the UK. By the time equally impressive "Everybody Dance" came out later that year, Chic were making a name for themselves, charting at #1 in the US for the 2nd time and again they reached the top 10 in the UK.

The band could do no wrong as they released their biggest album to date in 1978, with an instantly recognisable simple but highly stylised album cover featuring the band sitting around in a huge room in a stately home. "C'est Chic" was not only one of the best of the year but it was also one of the best of the decade and brought the band yet more acclaim. It featured all-time classic disco shout-out "Le Freak" and deeply melodic dance-floor anthem, which starts with instantly recognisable bells effect, "I Want Your Love". It was an album that was to register platinum status in the US, selling over a million copies and achieving gold status in the UK, where it sold over one hundred thousand copies.

In '79 Edward, Rodgers and Thompson produced the Sister Sledge "We Are Family" album. The also wrote songs for the album, including “Lost In Music" and "Thinking Of You". While working on this release a deal was struck between the Chic members and Sister Sledge. Edward and Rodgers would give the sisters the then-unknown track ”He's The Greatest Dancer" and Sister Sledge in return would give their song, "I Want Your Love".

You can catch GEC Heritage Live presents Nile Rodgers & CHIC along with special guests Soul II Soul on Saturday, June 20 as GEC Heritage Live in the grounds of Kenwood House, Hampstead Heath in London. Tickets are available from or by phone 08448440444

Read more of B&S Editor Lee Tyler's Nile Rodgers & CHIC retrospective, which includes the key songs, artists and genres the band influenced around the time of their chart reign and again in recent years. Also, the huge acts Rodgers and Edwards helped by adding their production magic to the mix and what has happened to the band since, including the great Rodgers & CHIC revival! Another B&S riveting read in the current issue of Blues & Soul magazine - click the 'BUY NOW' link below to order straight from the B&S shop or read on for high street retailer details...

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