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Nile Rodgers Biography

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Birth Name: Nile Gregory Rodgers
Born: 1952/09/19
Birth Place: New York City
Years Active: 1970–present
Genres: Disco, Soul, R&B, Rock, Funk

Nile Rodgers (born September 19, 1952) is an American musician, producer, composer, arranger, and guitarist born in New York City. He is the lead guitarist and co-founding member with Bernard Edwards of the band Chic, which has been active since 1976..

He began his career as a session guitarist in New York, touring with the “Sesame Street” band in his teens led by Joe Raposo, and then working in the house band at Harlem's world famous Apollo Theater, playing behind Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Maxine Brown, Aretha Franklin, Ben E. King, Betty Wright, Earl Lewis and the Channels, Parliament Funkadelic, and many other legendary R&B artists.

Rodgers met bassist Bernard Edwards in 1970. Together they formed New York City which had the hit single, “I'm Doin' Fine Now.” The band’s one hit allowed them to tour extensively, even opening for The Jackson 5 on the American leg of their first world tour in 1973. The band dissolved after their second album failed to yield a hit, but Rodgers and Edwards joined forces with drummer Tony Thompson, and worked and recorded as the funk rock band The Boys, which played numerous gigs up and down the East Coast.

As the Big Apple Band, Rodgers and Edwards worked with Ashford & Simpson, Luther Vandross, and many others. Since another New York artist, Walter Murphy, had a band also called The Big Apple Band, Rodgers and Edwards were forced to change their band’s name to avoid confusion. Thus, in 1977 the band was renamed as Chic.

Between gigs they recorded their first album with then-boss Luther Vandross, who provided background vocals on the group’s early recordings. The band scored numerous Top 10 hits and helped propel disco to new levels of popularity. Chic’s chart-topping songs “Le Freak,” “I Want Your Love,” “Everybody Dance,” “Dance, Dance, Dance,” “My Forbidden Lover” and “Good Times” became club/pop/R&B standards.

The success of Chic's first singles led Atlantic to offer Rodgers and Edwards the opportunity to produce any act on its roster. They chose Sister Sledge, whose 1978 album, “We Are Family,” peaked at #3 and remained on the charts well into 1979. The first two singles, “He's the Greatest Dancer” and the title cut “We Are Family” both reached #1 on the R&B chart, and #6 and #2, respectively on the Pop chart. As the Chic Organization’s tight sound became increasingly sought-after, Rodgers and Edwards began record production with numerous artists, together or individually.

In 1980 Rodgers and Edwards wrote and produced the album “Diana” 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 1979 single, “Rapper's Delight,” the first multiple-platinum hip-hop single.

Chic dissolved in 1983 after its final contractual Atlantic album, “Believer” and the film soundtrack, “Soup For One.” At that time Rodgers began a solo career producing his first album, “Adventures in the Land of the Good Groove.” Rodgers produced the 1983 album “Talkback,” by Canadian New Wave/new romantic band Spoons, which included the hits “Old Emotions” and “The Rhythm.”

Rodgers produced David Bowie's biggest selling album “Let's Dance” with several hit singles including “China Girl,” “Modern Love” and the title track, "Let’s Dance.” Duran Duran worked extensively with Rodgers after he remixed their largest selling hit single, “The Reflex” in 1984 and followed up with “The Wild Boys” on their 1984 live album “Arena.” It was rumored that Rodgers had become a member of Duran Duran when they released the album “Big Thing,” but he only acted as a session musician on that album.

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.” This period sparked Rodgers’ interest in soundtracks, the first of which were “Alphabet City,” “Gremlins,” “Against All Odds,” “That's Dancing,” “White Nights,” and “The Fly.”

In 1985 Rodgers produced albums for Sheena Easton, Jeff Beck, Thompson Twins, Mick Jagger, and many others, while still finding time to perform at Live Aid with the Thompson Twins. In 1986, he produced Duran Duran's “Notorious” album, which yielded a #2 title track hit, “Notorious.”Rodgers contributed to numerous other projects and appearances with members of the band throughout the 1980s.

He also produced albums for 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. He then worked on the soundtrack for Laurie Anderson’s “Home of the Brave.”

Rodgers formed the short-lived experimental band Outloud in 1987, with David Letterman’s guitarist, composer, and vocalist Felicia Collins and acclaimed French session musician, producer, composer, and keyboardist Philippe Saisse. The trio released a single album, “Out Loud,” on Warner Bros. Records.

In 1988 Rodgers composed his first orchestral soundtrack for the film “Coming to America” starring Eddie Murphy. Rodgers followed this with soundtracks for “White Hot” and “Earth Girls Are Easy.” The latter would pair him with The B-52’s. In 1989 he co-produced their comeback multi-platinum album “Cosmic Thing,” which had the hit singles “Love Shack,” “Roam,” “Cosmic Thing” and “Deadbeat Club.”

That year he also produced “Workin' Overtime,” Diana Ross’ return to Motown, a deal that scored her an executive position at the label, along with releases by the Dan Reed Network, Slam, and Duran Duran’s compilation, “Decade.”

In September 1990, Epic Records released the Rodgers produced Vaughan Brothers album, “Family Style,” shortly after the untimely death of guitar virtuoso Stevie Ray Vaughan. Early in this decade he also produced projects for David Bowie, Eric Clapton, The B-52s,David Lee Roth, Ric Ocasek, The Dan Reed Network, Cathy Dennis, Patty Griffin, Jimmie Vaughan, The Stray Cats and many other artists, along with continuing soundtrack work on “Thelma and Louise,” “Cool World” and “The Beavis and Butt-head Experience.”

After a 1992 birthday party where Rodgers, Bernard Edwards, Paul Shaffer and Anton Fig played old Chic hits to rapturous response. Rodgers and Edwards reformed a new version of Chic. They recorded a fresh crop of material for the album “Chic-Ism” and performed live worldwide.

In 1998, Rodgers founded Sumthing Else Music Works record label and Sumthing Distribution, an independent music label distributor. Sumthing focuses on distributing a fast-growing new genre: video game soundtracks. Its titles include the complete “Halo” and “Resident Evil” franchises and other well-known Triple-A game soundtracks like “Gears of War” and “Borderlands.”

Rodgers continued to focus on many soundtrack projects, film and video games alike. Among them were, “Rush Hour 2,” “Snow Dogs” and “Semi-Pro” starring Will Ferrell, who co-wrote the title song “Love Me Sexy” with Rodgers. Also in 2002, Rodgers appeared on the Red Hot Organization's compilation album “Red Hot and Riot.” The CD, a tribute to the music and positive social message of afropop pioneer, Fela Kuti, featured Rodgers on remakes of Kuti songs “Water No Get Enemy” and “Zombie (Part Two).” Rodgers appeared on “Water No Get Enemy” alongside influential hip-hop and R&B artists, D'Angelo, Macy Gray and The Soultronics, and on “Zombie (Part Two)” with famous jazz trumpeter Roy Hargrove.

In October 2011, Rodgers worked with singer Adam Lambert in New York on a song entitled “Shady” for Lambert's second album, “Trespassing.” In 2013 Rodgers performed on Daft Punk's chart-topping album “Random Access Memories.” Rodgers co-wrote and played guitar on three tracks, “Give Life Back to Music,” “Lose Yourself to Dance” and “Get Lucky.” "Get Lucky" reached the Top 10 on the music charts of over 32 countries, and won awards for Record of the Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards. “Random Access Memories” won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year.