Nile Rodgers: A (Deep) Appreciation

We recently ran across this wonderful clip of Nile Rodgers making an appearance on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series. He was there to help celebrate 50 years of hip-hop, because “Good Times” (the hit he created with his former group Chic) is one of the most sampled songs of all time.

Naturally, it put us in mind of the 70s hits he and the late Bernard Edwards graced us with under the moniker of Chic. While disco was a dark period in music for some of us, you can’t deny Rodgers’ influence (and his ear for a great groove). Since 1972, Rodgers has been something of a funk ambassador. The band he and Edwards envisioned was an Americanized version of Roxy Music with a sophisticated blend of jazz, funk, and soul.

But, after disco imploded, Rodgers took that vision and shaped it to the many artists he worked with after the group disbanded. His tally as a writer/guitarist/producer hovers in the neighborhood of 500 million albums and 75 million singles sold. Billboard once named him the “#1 Singles Producer In The World.”

Thus, it begs the question, “Where would pop music be without Nile Rodgers?” Let’s assess.

The Sugarhill Gang’s classic “Rapper’s Delight” wouldn’t have been near as infectious (and become the first multi-platinum hip-hop hit) without the hook from Chic’s aforementioned “Good Times” underpinning it. In fact, the song also influenced both Blondie’s “Rapture” and Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust.”

Without Rodgers at the helm, Madonna’s album Like A Virgin might’ve languished instead of becoming the 1984 breakthrough that it was, producing four hit singles. Bowie’s biggest-selling album, Let’s Dance, wouldn’t have had as much “serious moonlight.” The B52s would’ve bypassed the “Love Shack.” Other 80s artists, including Duran Duran, Thompson Twins, Cyndi Lauper, and INXS, would’ve also missed out on some major chart appearances.

Rodgers has put his magic touch on projects by Mick Jagger, Jeff Beck, Kaiser Chiefs, and Lady Gaga, just to name a few. Then, there’s his Grammy-winning work with Daft Punk on their 2013 album Random Access Memories, where he played guitar on the huge hit “Get Lucky.” More recently, he garnered a ton of awards for his work on Beyonce’s RENAISSANCE project.

With his extensive resume’ as a producer, we tend to overlook what a great and innovative guitar player he is. Rodgers’ distinctive “chucking” style of playing earned him a spot on Rolling Stone’s list of the 250 greatest guitarists of all time, placing him in the impressive #7 slot.

Then there are the awards: six Grammys (including a Lifetime Achievement Award), induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame…those shiny statues tell us one thing, but it’s Nile Rodgers’ musical vision that takes artists in a slightly different direction (the hitmaking kind) that is his true gift (one we can all share in).

Seriously, what would the pop music of the last 40-some years sound like without the special touch of Nile Rodgers? Let’s not even go there.

-Cindy Grogan

Photo: Nile Rodgers, Hyde Park 2022 (Raph_PH via Wikimedia Commons)

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