Creative giant multi-talented songwriter, hit album producer, film music composer, arranger and guitarist
Co-founder with Bernard Edwards of Chic; defined disco sound
With the late Bernard Edwards, Nile Rodgers was responsible for writing and producing the songs for their band Chic, including the hits "Dance, Dance, Dance,” "Everybody Dance,” "Le Freak,” "I Want Your Love" and "Good Times.” The team also wrote and produced hits for other artists such as Norma Jean Wright, Sister Sledge, Sheila and B. Devotion, Diana Ross, Johnny Mathis, Debbie Harry and Fonzi Thornton, with major hits including “He’s the Greatest Dancer” and “We Are Family” (both for Sister Sledge) and “I’m Coming Out” (Diana Ross). Rodgers is also a noteworthy guitarist, and recorded three solo albums during the 1980s and ‘90s, and another one as part of the group Outloud. Additionally, he has worked as producer and performer with diverse artists including Sister Sledge, Diana Ross, Sheena Easton, David Bowie, Bryan Ferry, Duran Duran, Madonna, INXS, Britney Spears, Daft Punk, Pharrell Williams, Avicii, Disclosure, Sam Smith, Pitbull, Lady Gaga, Kylie Minogue, Nervo, Laura Mvula, and Keith Urban.
Rodgers was born on September 19, 1952 in New York City. He was drawn to the guitar because of John Lennon and the Beatles, and toured with the Sesame Street band and played in the house band at Harlem’s Apollo Theater, where he backed R&B legends including Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Maxine Brown, Aretha Franklin and Ben E. King. He met Edwards when both toured with Sesame Street in 1970. They formed a funk rock band called The Boys and then in 1972, the Big Apple Band, which served as a backup for the soul group New York City (which had the hit “I’m Doing Fine Now”) and also worked with artists including Ashford & Simpson and Luther Vandross. In 1976, they formed Chic—also with Boys’ drummer Tony Thompson, keyboardist Raymond Jones and singer Norma Jean Wright. Chic dominated the disco, funk and soul genres through 1983, when it disbanded.
Commencing his solo career, Rodgers produced, in addition to his own recordings, David Bowie’s biggest album, Let’s Dance, as well as Madonna’s Like a Virgin. He also worked with INXS, Duran Duran, Sheena Easton, Jeff Beck, Thompson Twins, Grace Jones, Diana Ross, The B-52’s, Phillip Bailey, Al Jarreau and Mick Jagger, and joined Robert Plant’s recording band The Honeydrippers. Additionally, he began producing soundtracks including Coming to America and Earth Girls Are Easy.
Having disbanded when disco waned, Chic regrouped in the early ‘90s and released the album Chic-Ism in 1992. Edwards died of pneumonia after performing with Chic at Tokyo’s Budokan Arena in 1996. After the 9-11 attacks in 2001, Rodgers created the We Are Family Foundation to promote healing and re-recorded the song with over 200 musicians, celebrities and personalities, with a documentary of the project chosen as a Sundance Film Festival Special Selection.
Rodgers has received the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences New York Chapter's Governor's Lifetime Achievement Award and the Heroes Award, and is a Dance Music Hall of Fame inductee. In 2011 he authored the critically acclaimed autobiography Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco, and Destiny. He continues to tour as Chic featuring Nile Rodgers, as well as write, produce and record for others, most notably appearing on Daft Punk’s 2012 blockbuster album Random Access Memories.