Nile Rodgers is FINALLY in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. I am still upset that his CHIC, along with his long-time partner, the late Bernard Edwards, remains blocked out of the Hall since, for some reason, people still harbor some resentment toward disco being a part of “rock & roll”. If you want to get technical, rock & roll ended around the time The Beatles released Rubber Soul. Then again, it probably ended before that, but who cares? The point is that if you aren’t Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Elvis Presley, etc., then you haven’t been playing rock ‘n’ roll.
So, what have we been listening to? I don’t know. But, in the words of Billy Joel, “Hot funk, cool punk, even if it’s old junk, it’s still rock and roll to me.” There you have it! CHIC is ever bit the part of rock and roll as is Led Zeppelin, Steely Dan, Parliament/Funkadelic, Ramones, Madonna, Metallica, The Temptations and all the other members of the Hall of Fame are. So, Hall of Fame voters, just put CHIC in as a band and show this great band some respect.
But, right now, I will get off of my soapbox, and praise the man Nile Rodgers. If you go back to look at the man’s production, you will be amazed by the diversity of the artist with whom Rodgers has worked. Here is a brief list: Sister Sledge, Diana Ross, David Bowie, INXS, Madonna, Jeff Beck, Debbie Harry, Duran Duran, The Vaughan Brothers (Stevie Ray & Jimmie), just to list a few. Lately, the big-time creators of dance music have been turning to Mr. Rodgers in order to give their modern disco songs a little touch of his unparalleled guitar work. Dance artists such as Avicii, Disclosure and Daft Punk have all benefited from some hot licks from Nile’s guitar.
Today, I give to you my Top 20 Favorite Songs Either Played on or Produced by Nile Rodgers.
20. “Lay Me Down” – Avicii Featuring Adam Lambert & Nile Rodgers (2013). This song would just a boring old EDM song with a special guest vocalist until that unmistakable scratched rhythm guitar comes in to make the song transcendent.
19. “The Wild Boys” – Duran Duran (1984). Nile said in his autobiography that of all the artists he worked with, Duran Duran was the group with whom he was tightest. With Rodgers, the Duranies became the Splendid Six. Oh, and this song is one of the band’s better songs.
18. “Pressure Off” – Duran Duran featuring Janelle Monáe and Nile Rodgers (2015). The last Duran Duran album is outstanding. And this song brings “The Beatles of the Eighties” into the new millennium with an updated sound in the way only Nile Rodgers could do.
17. “Telepathy” – Christina Aguilera featuring Christina Aguilera (2016). Finally, someone could make Aguilera sound like the proper diva she always could be. And, who brought it out of her? Rodgers, of course.
16. “Roam” – The B-52’s (1989). By 1989, The B-52’s were hurting. They had lost their trademark guitarist, the songwriting visionary of the group, to complications due to AIDS. So, drummer Keith Strickland took up the guitar, and the band hired Rodgers to help them regain the “fun” in their sound. Well, as this song proves, The B-52’s were back.
15. “Material Girl” – Madonna (1984). That’s right! Nile Rodgers helped Madonna come up with her signature song.
14. “Backfired” – Debbie Harry (1981). Yes, this song “backfired” on the charts, but Rodgers and Harry had created a new rock-dance hybrid for the new decade.
13. “Upside Down” – Diana Ross (1980). The album from which this song comes, diana, is essentially a CHIC song only with Miss Ross’ vocals. Never in Diana Ross’ long, esteemed career had she sounded so confident and sassy as she did on this song, as well as the rest of the album. This song held the #1 spot for four weeks.
12. “Route 66 (The Nile Rodgers Mix)” – Depeche Mode (1988). Everyone’s favorite doom-and-gloom synth band recorded this rock and roll standard, while Nile’s mix gave the band a much needed levity. This version can be found on the Earth Girls Are Easy soundtrack, a silly movie that could have only been made in the Eighties.
11. “Tick Tock” – The Vaughan Brothers (1990). When guitar virtuosos, brothers Jimmie (of the Fabulous Thunderbirds) and Stevie Ray, decided to record an album together, they turned to another guitarist to produce them. So, they turned to Rodgers, who pulled the soulful side out of them.
10. “People Get Ready” – Jeff Beck with Rod Stewart (1985). Take that classic Curtis Mayfield song, let Jeff Beck work his six-string magic, and add a bit of Nile Rodgers magic, and you’ve got a great tune. Then, entice former Jeff Beck Group vocalist to rediscover his inner soul man, and you’ve produced a classic song. Sure, it’s not as great as the original version by the Impressions, but they came pretty close.
9. “Original Sin” – INXS (1984). Nile Rodgers helped this Australian, former new wave band discover its funk side. Once this band did, they became the purveyors of the funk-rock Eighties sound.
8. “The Reflex” – Duran Duran (1984). Rodgers took a flat-sounding new wave song and injected some life into it via the funk. Once the Duranies discovered what funk really was, they became the band they always aspired to be: a band that sounded as though the Sex Pistols and CHIC came together to play.
7. “Get Lucky” – Daft Punk featuring Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers (2013). Daft Punk is one of the better forward-sounding bands that look backward for their inspiration. And, when they wanted to really dip back into the Seventies disco sound, they called in Rodgers to put his guitar on the track, and history was made.
6. “Like a Virgin” – Madonna (1984). Madonna always dreamed of recording with Nile Rodgers, and she achieved her dream on her fantastic sophomore album. And, this song was a massive jump forward from her debut album.
5. “Let’s Dance” – David Bowie (1983). Rodgers has always stated that Roxy Music and David Bowie were major influences on him. So, imagine his excitement when Bowie approached him to help Bowie find pop chart success while building on the experimental nature of his Berlin albums. This was the last album in which Bowie found major chart success.
4. “We Are Family” – Sister Sledge (1979). Sister Sledge had been another R&B band that had been floundering a bit when the CHIC Organization hooked up with the ladies and helped them find their disco voice with this song. Sure, other songs off this album were hits, but this one transcended pop culture when the 1979 World Series champions Pittsburgh Pirates had adopted the song as their team song. This song must be played at every class reunion and wedding reception.
3. “I’m Coming Out” – Diana Ross (1980). I love the way this song begins, with that iconic drum bit. Then Diana sings those lyrics which have multiple meanings on different levels. Those are the kind of lyrics that the CHIC Organization aspired to.
2. “Good Times” – CHIC (1979). Did you really think that I would leave this song off my list? Not only it was a huge hit on the Pop, Dance and R&B charts, it was the sampled basis for “Rapper’s Delight”. Not only that, but this song influenced Queen’s bassist John Deacon to write the similar-sounding “Another One Bites the Dust”.
1. “Le Freak” – CHIC (1978). This was CHIC’s biggest hit. It was the song of the moment, as well as the song predicting the future. It did not take much of a stride from “Le Freak” to the sound of The Power Station (a Bernard Edwards’ production) and much of the sound of the Eighties.
I will continue to periodically yell in this blog to anyone who will listen that the whole band CHIC deserves to be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Here is my opinion of why this man was just inducted on his own for Musical Excellence.