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How a comical altercation led to the Chic song 'Le Freak'

In terms of status within the vast annals of music, Chic need no real introduction. The New York band were formed in 1972 by guitarist Nile Rodgers and bassist Bernard Edwards, and together the pair would write some of the most iconic and commercially successful disco songs of all time. These include ‘Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah’, ‘Everybody Dance’, ‘Le Freak’ and ‘Good Times’. 

The interesting thing about Chic was that although they were at the vanguard of the disco movement, they always viewed themselves as a rock band, partially owing to Rodgers’ lifelong love of rock and roll, and, that in the 1960s, he’d been a hippie and big fan of Jimi Hendrix. Duly, Chic regarded themselves as the rock band of the disco scene “that made good on hippie peace, love and freedom”.

A notable facet of Chic’s power was that Rodgers and Edwards were both master writers and producers, and outside of the band, they also combined to write a string of successful hits for other stars of the day, including Diana Ross and Sister Sledge. Outside of the partnership, Edwards produced legends such as Robert Palmer and Joe Cocker, whilst Rodgers worked with the likes of David Bowie and Mick Jagger. 

Although there are many stellar moments in the careers of Rodgers, Edwards and Chic, one cannot be overlooked; the 1978 hit ‘Le Freak’. It has been a staple of dancefloors ever since and is loved by numerous different generations, a testament to the good times that Rodgers and Edwards espoused with the timeless grooving rhythms of the song.

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The interesting thing about ‘Le Freak’ is that it actually has a backstory, and it stems from the time when Chic were at the top of their game, after the release of 1977’s ‘Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)’. A comical altercation led to Chic writing ‘Le Freak’ after they were denied entrance to one of New York’s hottest nightclubs, Studio 54. 

The night was New Year’s Eve 1977, and Rodgers and Edwards were invited to Studio 54, the home of disco. A singer that you might have heard of, Grace Jones, wanted Rodgers and Edwards to helm some production work for her, and she invited them to the club as her guests. However, when they got there, they weren’t on the guest list, and the doorman couldn’t be convinced that they were Chic. 

Dressed to the nines and with nowhere to go on New Year’s Eve, the pair left and started writing the song as their reply to the rude doorman. It was originally entitled ‘Fuck Off’ but when they came to record it, Edwards thought better of the profanities, so they changed it to ‘Freak Off’. This new title didn’t work either, and it made them cringe. In a stroke of genius, they changed the opening line to “ah Freak Out!” instead of “ah Fuck Off!”, and there they had it. They changed the title to ‘Le Freak’, and, the rest as they say, was history. 

As for the production gig with Grace Jones, it wouldn’t come to fruition. However, Rodgers would produce her 1986 album, Inside Story, which was met with positive acclaim. This didn’t matter though, as after the release of ‘Le Freak’, it’s sure that Rodgers nor Edwards wouldn’t have cared about working for Grace Jones. They were now household names.  

Listen to ‘Le Freak’ below.