Nile Rodgers has been in the public eye since the dawn of the disco and funk revolution in the 1970s. Along with legendary bassist Bernard Edwards, Rodgers is the co-founder of the New York legends Chic. The band scored a string of commercially successful and iconic disco songs, including the likes of ‘Everybody Dance’, ‘Le Freak’, ‘I Want Your Love’, ‘Good Times’, and many more.
Aided by his signature slick disco chops, Rodgers has written, produced and performed on albums that have shipped more than 500 million units and 75 million singles worldwide. Rodger’s signature Fender Stratocaster tone is so recognisable, even when mixed in with a wide variety of varying different musicians and genres.
The scope of and quality of works influenced by or featuring Rodgers is enormous. Grandmaster Flash, Blondie, Duran Duran and even Johnny Marr have cited him as influences. In fact, Blondie’s 1980 US number one hit ‘Rapture’ was a direct tribute to Chic and, later, Debbie Harry’s 1981 solo album, Koo Koo, was produced by Rodgers and Edwards. Additionally, French house duo Modjo used sampled Rodgers’ guitar from ‘Soup for One’ as the main theme of their 2000 classic ‘Lady (Hear Me Tonight)’.
The list of influences is endless; the song ‘Good Times’, from Chic’s third album Risqué, was a number one hit and became one of the most sampled tracks of all time. It is widely regarded to have helped in “ushering in” hip-hop via the Sugarhill Gang’s ‘Rappers Delight’ and it also inspired Queen’s megahit ‘Another One Bites the Dust’ and, permeating the French house scene again, Daft Punk would emerge with Rodgers ringing in their ears when creating their now-iconic tune ‘Around the World’.
Not content with creating their own hits and inspiring others, along with musical sidekick Edwards, Rodgers wrote and produced music for other artists. These include ‘We Are Family’ for Sister Sledge and ‘Im Coming out’ for Diana Ross. His hit making journey didn’t finish with Chic’s breakup in 1983, either, and he went on to play and produce some of the biggest albums and singles of the ’80s. Famously, these include David Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’, ‘Original Sin’ by INXS, Duran Duran’s ‘The Reflex’ and Madonna’s 1984 classic ‘Like a Virgin’. Having lent his expertise to a host of musical legends, The B-52s, Jeff Beck, Mick Jagger, Bryan Ferry, Christina Aguilera, Lady Gaga and Daft Punk, you can see the scope of the point I’m trying to make.
His Stratocaster has been dubbed “the hitmaker” and his songs have made over $2 billion in royalties. Let that sink in.
Rodgers’ talent clearly knows no bounds. Unsurprisingly, then, he made his long overdue appearance on the much-celebrated institution Desert Island Discs in 2018. The BBC Radio 4 flagship programme has been a monument of culture since its first broadcast in 1942. A wide range of voices have been heard on its radio waves from former Prime Ministers to Hollywood A-Listers, all revealing the eight songs they would choose for company if stranded on a desert island.
Rodgers’ first pick is one of his own. The record that, as he explains “super changed my life”, is Chic’s legendary hit ‘Le Freak’. After listening to the song where it all started, Rodgers explains much about being born to a young teenage mother, and the “really great intellectual” people he grew up around, with “alternative culture” and the beatnik ethos influencing his early years. He describes his family as being “bohemian with a capital B”.
The next artist that Rodgers picks out is The Beatles. Before it, he explains how at “fourteen or fifteen” he went to a party, and it was here he first took LSD, with radical psychologist Dr. Timothy Leary. He says this trip “blew” his mind, and the next thing he knew, he’d picked up the guitar. Aptly, the first song he learnt was ‘A Day in The Life’ from the Liverpudlians 1967 psychedelic masterpiece Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Another artist Rodgers picks out is the titanic Jimi Hendrix. Prior to this, he talks about his time in the “most colourful, unique section in the entire Black Panther party”, called the lower Manhattan section of the Harlem Branch. He says being in this section, which was based in Greenwich Village, was “how we became friends with Hendrix”. Rodgers then discusses his first band ‘New World Rising’, who played with legends such as the Stooges and Foghat at just sixteen.
He also talks about the Hendrix album Are You Experienced? being “the most important piece of music to me of all time, for about two or three weeks, but it’s still cool. The lyrics, and the way he played, this really made me who I am.”
In keeping with the psychedelic theme, he talks about his time in the Hollywood Hills and tripping on acid in “a house mainly made out of glass” with some hippies. The Doors had recently released their self-titled debut album, and it seems these miscellaneous hippies and Rodgers were in awe: “They kept playing this song called The End over and over and over, for about a day and a half,” he explained.
Elsewhere in his collection, Rodgers picks include his own hits such as Chic’s ‘Good Times’ and David Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’. When host Lauren Laverne springs the classic question upon Rodgers at the end, as to which of the eight discs he’d save above the others, Rodgers picks The Doors ‘The End’, showing that he has always truly been a hippie at heart.
Check out the full playlist, below.
Nile Rodgers’ 8 favourite songs:
- Chic – ‘Le Freak’
- The Beatles – ‘A Day in The Life’
- The Doors – ‘The End’
- The Jimi Hendrix Experience – ‘Are You Experienced?’
- Sister Sledge – ‘We Are Family’
- David Bowie – ‘Let’s Dance’
- Daft Punk – ‘Get Lucky’
- Chic – ‘Good Times’