Nile Rodgers: Godfather of Disco
If you don’t know his name, then you definitely know his songs. Nile Rodgers is without a doubt one of the greatest musicians ever, and a living legend whose career has spanned nearly five decades having worked with a shit ton of great artists. At every party you’ve ever been to I can guarantee that at least one or ten of his songs will have been played, whether that includes classic hits with CHIC such as ‘Le Freak’ or modern electronic disco tracks such as ‘Get Lucky’ with Daft Punk. Rodgers has an impressive back catalogue under his belt and has worked with greats such as David Bowie and Diana Ross and collaborated with contemporary artists like Sigala and Tensnake - this is a man who clearly works his arse off and loves every minute of it. From interviews you can sense the man’s excitement for a long-list of future projects and his endearing passion for previous ventures.
Nile Rodgers is the reason I got into disco. About 6 years ago I unearthed my enthusiasm for disco party bangers that I was a fan of as a child, but by this point the internet had become a greater tool for properly exploring music. I gradually discovered the extent to which Rodgers was involved in music production, and then I began to explore his brilliant but slightly lesser known works, such as Sister Sledge’s Love Somebody Today album or Norma Jean’s self-titled debut. My deep exploration of disco-related music and artists has continued through to today, and thanks to his influence on both me and the music industry I have uncovered amazing DJs like The Reflex and Joey Negro, club nights (check out Stevie Wonderland’s ‘Rare Pleasures’), and other disco pioneers such as Change. None of this would probably exist in the same way today without his influences and continued presence. That’s not to say that disco would not exist at all without him, but it certainly would not be the same without his or Bernard Edwards (who deserves an entire article to himself) attention to production and passion for dance music.
To really see his impact on the music industry you simply have to look at hip-hop. When The Sugarhill Gang sampled ‘Good Times’ on their track ‘Rapper’s Delight’ a new style of music began emerging, predominantly with disco tracks sampled, scratched and mixed. Skip to the present day and shows like The Get Down or Vinyl are exploring hip-hop, disco and rock origins, unsurprisingly, and rightly so, both shows had Nile Rodgers involvement in the soundtrack. Queen’s hit ‘Another One Bites the Dust’ was based on ‘Good Times’, this along with so many other songs around the world have taken inspiration from Nile Rodgers’ distinctive guitar riffs and Bernard Edwards’ sexy basslines. Rodgers’ music has been sampled more than any other artist, in tracks like Modjo’s ‘Lady (Hear Me Tonight)’. To put it simply, Nile Rodgers is a pioneer and an icon who should be commended for his contributions to music. If you like dance music and hip-hop then you should be thanking him, and those people out there who aren’t sure about disco might want to take a closer look at his work – the disco sucks movement from the eighties should never have happened.
Without wishing to drone on, because I am a massive fan, I should make it clear that Nile Rodgers is not just a quality musician. Mr Rodgers also runs FOLD Festival which launched in 2015, sadly it clashes with Glastonbury so I’ll have to wait until 2018. He founded the We Are Family Foundation, a non-profit organisation that form or help various projects in order ‘to bring people together, celebrate our differences and share ideas across borders in order to solve some of the bigger problems facing our world’. So he’s a pretty busy man, constantly travelling all over the world to write, produce and perform, which is why you should get well acquainted with his discography and give some well-earned appreciation to a pioneer who has sculpted some of today’s biggest genres. While you’re at it, give CHIC a vote for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, it’s about time – which coincidentally is the working title for their next album. The album has been delayed because Nile Rodgers is a perfectionist, so it will be well worth the wait and hopefully get the recognition that Rodgers and the band deserve. So here’s to the Godfather of Disco, from a fan to a hero thank you for all of the top-class music, and long may it continue.