When the Public Theater announced that musician/producer extraordinaire Nile Rodgers would grace its stage in January, we knew our fingers would be on the trigger the second tickets went on sale (which, by the way, is today, December 22, at 2pm). But things just got a whole lot more interesting: On Tuesday, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced that Rodgers will be inducted during a ceremony at the Barclays Center in April.
It’s a bittersweet victory, as Rodgers made clear to Rolling Stone: his seminal disco act Chic has been nominated a staggering 11 times. After the induction committee repeatedly turned its nose up at the band’s calls of “I Want Your Love,” the Rock Hall powers-that-be decided to tap Rodgers– but not Chic– for an Award for Musical Achievement.
It’s easy to see why they’d pick Rodgers and not his band, just as the Rock Hall nominated Bruce Springsteen and only later inducted his E Street Band as well. While Chic pumped out songs that continue to be played at every wedding and birthday party ever (“Good Times,” “Everybody Dance,” etc.) and others that are obligatory soundtrack fodder for any movie set in the disco ’70s (“Le Freak,” “I Want Your Love”), it’s the hits that Rodgers went on to make that really sealed the deal. For one thing, he produced Madonna’s Like a Virgin album, in part because Madge, who was inducted into the Rock Hall in 2008, “idolized” him. (To be fair, Rodgers’s Chic bandmates Bernard Edwards and Tony Thompson played on the album.)
Among other things, Madonna admired Rodgers’s work with David Bowie on his Let’s Dance album. That collaboration came about after Bowie reportedly told Rodgers, “Nile, I really want you to make hits.” And that he did. Watch the video below to hear how Rodgers turned an earlier version of the song “Let’s Dance” into something that was actually danceable.
Rodgers gave the same treatment to “China Girl,” a much looser, Velvety version of which had appeared on Iggy Pop’s 1977 album The Idiot. And it’s safe to say that without Rodgers, “Modern Love” wouldn’t have become indie cinema’s favorite exultant jogging song.
“I’m more proud of ‘Let’s Dance’ than damn near anything I’ve ever done,” Rodgers wrote in Billboard after Bowie’s death, “and it’s the easiest record I’ve ever made in my life — we did it from start to finish in 17 days.”
Here’s Rodgers playing “Let’s Dance” with his friend Prince at the 2014 Essence Festival in New Orleans:
Of course, Bowie and Madonna are just the tip of the iceberg. With Edwards, Rodgers wrote and produced songs like “We Are Family,” for Sister Sledge, and “Upside Down” and “I’m Coming Out,” for Diana Ross. Rodgers went on to work with new wave acts like Thompson Twins, INXS, Bryan Ferry, Duran Duran, and Depeche Mode; fellow guitar legends like Eric Clapton, Slash, Jimmy Page, Stevie Ray Vaughan; solo-going frontmen like Mick Jagger, Ric Ocasek, and David Lee Roth; and more recently Daft Punk, with whom he finally won a trio of Grammys.
If you’re lucky, Rodgers will play “Get Lucky” on stage in January. One thing’s for sure: You’ll hear plenty of Chic songs, since the band is dropping a new album next year and embarking on an arena tour in February. Either way, it’s going to be a blast. According to Rolling Stone, Rodgers “wants his concerts to evoke the nonstop-party feeling of Studio 54, the legendary nightclub that originally gave Chic a platform.” (Like Chic, Studio 54 is also celebrating 40 years.) So, go on– dance, dance, dance.
Nile Rodgers, Jan. 23 and 28 at The Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St., East Village; tickets $30.
Correction: The original version of this post was revised because it misidentified Rodgers’s co-writer on the Sister Sledge and Diana Ross songs.