Six Degrees of Nile Rodgers

ImageWe’re already super-excited about Nile Rodgers and CHIC coming to West Holts on Friday, but Gareth Edmundson has commandeered a popular game to whip us all into a further frenzy. Read on to find out more

We’ve all heard of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon – the game that allows film buffs to connect any arbitrary actor in Hollywood back to the actor Kevin Bacon in the shortest number of steps.

We might just have found music’s equivalent – Six Degrees of Nile Rodgers,  the musician, composer, arranger, guitarist and producer  who will be headlining the West Holts Stage on Friday night alongside CHIC.

Nile Rodgers’ influence and connections across popular music is staggering. Most recently, he worked with Daft Punk and Pharrell Williams to give us Get Lucky, which has been topping the charts for most of the summer, prompting Rodgers to tell the Observer: “It’s like the summer of ’78 has been duplicated.” But Rodgers’ influence on Daft Punk is just the tip of an enormous musical legacy that traverses 40 years in the industry. 

He began his career in New York as a session guitarist where he worked in the house band of Harlem’s Apollo Theatre, playing behind the likes of Aretha Franklin, Ben E. King and other legendary R&B artists.

In 1970, Nile met the bassist Bernard Edwards and formed the Big Apple Band that backed the R&B act New York City (I’m Doing Fine Now). The band’s one hit led them to opening for the Jackson 5 on their first world tour in 1973.

As the Big Apple Band, Rodgers and Edwards worked with Ashford & Simpson, Luther Vandross and many others. But due to a name clash with another band, Rodgers and Edwards were forced to change their band’s name to avoid confusion and CHIC was born in 1977.  

CHIC’s disco success led Atlantic to offer Rodgers and Edwards the opportunity to produce any act on its label. They chose Sister Sledge. Think We Are Family and She’s The Greatest Dancer and you get the picture.

The Eighties were unquestionably Rodgers and Edwards’ most successful decade commercially. They wrote and produced for Diana Ross, yielding the smash hits Upside Down and I’m Coming Out. CHIC’s song Good Times played a pivotal role in the explosion of Hip Hop music, as an interpolation of the song’s bass-line and the record’s string-section sample was the bedrock of The Sugarhill Gang’s A Rapper’s Delight – the first multiple-platinum Hip Hop single. Edwards’ infectious bass-line also influenced Queen’s largest selling single – the1980 hit Another One Bites The Dust. The CHIC Organization produced the smash hit Spacer for French Pop artist Sheila and B. Devotion and Deborah Harry’s solo album Koo Koo.

Rodgers then produced David Bowie’s biggest-selling album Let’s Dance and the single Original Sin by INXS, which led to Duran Duran, who worked extensively with Rodgers after he co-produced their largest selling hit single, The Reflex in 1983 and followed it up with The Wild Boys on their 1984 live album Arena.

That same year he produced Madonna’s blockbuster album Like a Virgin, spawning her two signature hits Material Girl and the album’s title track, Like a Virgin. He also joined Robert Plant’s platinum selling studio band The Honeydrippers, on the album The Honeydrippers: Volume One. 

More widely during the Eighties, Rodgers produced albums for the B-52s, Sheena Easton, Jeff Beck, The Thompson Twins, Mick Jagger, Grace Jones, Earth Wind and Fire’s vocalist Phillip Bailey and  Al Jarreau. Rodgers performed on Higher Love with Steve Winwood, and records for Cyndi Lauper, Howard Jones, and David Sanborn.

As if collaborating and working with global superstars wasn’t enough, Rodgers then started working on soundtracks too. The first of which was Alphabet CityGremlins (Out Out – Peter Gabriel) Against All Odds (Walk Through the Fire –  Peter Gabriel again), That’s Dancing (Invitation to Dance – Kim Carnes), White Nights (numerous songs) and The Fly (Help Me – Bryan Ferry).

Rodgers composed his first orchestral soundtrack for the film Coming to America starring Eddie Murphy. He then followed this success with soundtracks for White Hot, Earth Girls Are Easy. Rush Hour 2Snow Dogs and Semi-Pro starring Will Ferrell, who co-wrote the title song Love Me Sexy with Rodgers.

Before you pitch your tent at the greatest festival on the planet, why not play Six Degrees of Nile Rodgers on the way to Worthy Farm? It’ll kill some time on the journey and get you extra-excited about seeing him and CHIC belt out some disco magic on Friday night at the West Holts Stage. Good Times!


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