Nile Rodgers is getting a much deserved fist of respect after too long – a BBC documentary, an acclaimed autobiography and a much-awaited brute of a new album with Daft Punk. He and Chic are doing the festivals this summer.
Here are ten of his tunes. A drop in the ocean.
1. Mo Money Mo Problems by Notorious B.I.G. with Ma$e and Puffy.
When Rodgers wrote this for Diana Ross as ‘I’m Coming Out’, it was intended as a fanfare, a celebration, and the diva had to have her voice upfront and central. Motown weren’t happy with it and fucked with the mix. This rap version is closer to the original intention.
Biggie’s battlecry doesn’t hurt:
"B.I.G., P-O, P-P-A
No info, for the, DEA
Federal agents mad cause I'm flagrant
Tap my cell, and the phone in the basement"
But it’s all about Nile’s diamond-edged riff.
2. Soup For One by Chic (Soup For One soundtrack)
The riff is probably best known as 2000’s ‘Lady’ by Modjo. It got annoying. This original has the good bits. Chic are normally considered a light hearted disco macaron, but you can’t have funk without soul.
3. Happy Man by Chic
This is about Chic as a unit with Edwards and Thompson. It sounds so casual – Tony’s rattle and Bernard’s driving lead bass. Nile gets a cool solo.
4. Lost in Music by Sister Sledge
Lost in Music. Caught in a trap. No turning back.
Deny it. The ponderous piano, elegant strings and plainchanting Sledge girls are offset by Nile’s marching funk, weirdly phased guitar. It is the loudest thing in the mix, and rightly so.
5. Notorious by Duran Duran
Duran Duran are super dodgy and it is no coincidence that Chic were in the band in their best period. Thompson was in The Power Station and Rodgers played guitar for the brummies. This song has Nile higher in the mix than Le Bon, amusingly and rightly so.
6. Why by Carly Simon
World class nutcase Simon and her soothsayer found the correct writer/producer for this. Massive Ibiza hit. Imagine the horrible plastic surgery she’d have if she’d be a pop star today?
7. Original Sin by INXS
Didn’t write but produced, and Nile is all over it. Killers like ‘New Sensation’ wouldn’t have happened without it.
8. Like A Virgin by Madonna
It’s no ‘Borderline’, but Madonna has riches to burn and this is her clarion planting of her banner. Imagine this without the bass throb and Niles’s chang chang.
9. Le Freak by Chic
Rodgers is jazz and classically trained so he writes and arranges the opulent strings himself, and ‘Awwww – Freak Out!’ is close to the best pop line ever, but still the real star is that guitar. Find me better rhythm guitar. I dare you.
10. Let’s Dance by David Bowie
Bowie needed a hit, Rodgers needed to be a hipster again. The audience won. There are some undead fools who can’t get down to this song.
Stevie Ray Vaughn plays the bluesy bits, because more is more.