Last week, singer/songwriter/producer/guitarist Nile Rodgers announced that he’d been fighting an aggressive strain of prostate cancer for several months. His blog, entitled “Walking on Planet C”, recounts his recent struggle with the illness. I, like many others around the world, have confidence that Nile will triumph over cancer and continue entertaining the world with his upbeat attitude and revolutionary guitar playing.
When I first heard “Le Freak”, “I Want Your Love” and “Good Times” as a kid, songs that were among the tunes that constituted my very first exposure to music, I didn’t have the faculties to think anything other than “hey, these are good songs”. They were easy to sing along with, and they made me want to dance. These days, I still find those songs easy to sing along with and danceable (although I feel like if I really wanted to dance to “I Want Your Love” I’d need a tux and tails), but I know enough about music to know that these were meticulously crafted and excellently played songs that transcended the disco label. Even if you’re a staunch disco-hater, I don’t see how anyone could deny how well-made and catchy Chic’s biggest hits were. As someone who’s definitely not a disco-hater (and knows enough of Chic’s work to know that they weren’t just a disco band), I know that there was plenty of great music beyond that trio of revolutionary pop singles-“Stage Fright”, “Soup for One”, “Savoir Faire”, “At Last I Am Free”, “Chic Cheer”-all excellent pieces of music.
…and that was just the beginning. As I hope you know, Chic was merely the jumping off point for Nile to become one of the most in-demand and successful producers of the next decade. Either alone or in tandem with his bass-wizard partner Bernard Edwards, Rodgers gave Diana Ross the biggest hit album of her career (diana, which featured “Upside Down” and “I’m Coming Out”), provided the single mix for Duran Duran’s first #1 hit (“The Reflex”), and produced Madonna’s breakthrough album Like a Virgin. He also produced the biggest hits by The B-52’s (the immortal “Love Shack”) and David Bowie (“Let’s Dance”), to say nothing of the work he did for (inhale) Sheena Easton, Robert Plant, INXS, Debbie Harry, Grace Jones, Mick Jagger and David Lee Roth. You could make an excellent just based off of his not-quite-a-hit productions, like Sheila B. Devotion’s “Spacer” and Carly Simon’s “Why”.
There’s an excellent box set that was released overseas last year, entitled “Nile Rodgers presents The Chic Organization: Boxset Vol. 1 / Savoir Faire” that provides but a taste of the genius Nile and ‘Nard managed to put on wax.
Nile is revealing bits and pieces of his struggle over time on his blog, and it’s been a riveting read so far. My hope is that he totally beats this terrible disease, continues kicking ass on tour with Chic, and stays strong long enough for his eventual (and deserved) induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Count me in as one of the folks pulling for Nile’s full recovery.