Attempting to list all the achievements of musician, producer and guitarist Nile Rodgers is nearly impossible. His career, which began when he was still a teenager has spanned over 40 years and he remains as a vital part of the music industry. Rodgers was born September 19, 1952 in New York.
In a revealing 2013 interview, Rodgers shared his love of music as a young boy. At the age of seven, Rodgers moved to South Central Los Angeles to attend a mostly-white Catholic school. Dissatisfied with the structure there, Rodgers skipped school to go to movies on Skid Row, which sparked his interest in becoming a musician. But Rodgers’ truancy caught up with him and he was shipped back to New York.
There, Rodgers became a classically trained jazz musician. By age 16, his talents proved formidable enough to get him into the prestigious Julliard School of Music. Instead Rodgers yearned to be a professional musician. He happened to see an audition for band to play for a new children’s show, Sesame Street. He scored the gig and left school behind.
Playing with the Sesame Street band would expose Rodgers to an eclectic set of characters who have all gone on to have astounding careers. One of the friendships forged during Rodgers’ time with the touring Sesame Street band was with legendary R&B crooner Luther Vandross. Vandross, Carlos Almomar, Diva Gray and others joined Rodgers in a group that built the base of Vandross’ performing band, Listen My Brother.
Several of the groups members went on to become session musicians who would work with Mick Jagger, David Bowie and countless others.
Shortly after his Sesame Street stint, Rodgers joined the Apollo Theater house band and credits this period to helping him learn the finer nuances of playing R&B.
After working behind the scenes for Vandross and other musicians, Rodgers and bassist Bernard Edwards formed the disco band Chic in the 1970s. The group was immensely successful, scoring big hits with “Everybody Dance,” “Good Times,” and other hits. Chic has been nominated to enter the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame a whopping nine times, most recently this year.
Rodgers says Chic is still working on new music and an album in in the works. Rodgers and Edwards used the Chic platform to produce acts such as Sister Sledge and others.
The 1980s were especially fruitful for Rodgers as he worked with Diana Ross, David Bowie, Madonna, Sheena Easton and Duran Duran on a series of smash hits. He also produced records for Grace Jones, Al Jarreau, Phillip Bailey, and scored the soundtrack for Eddie Murphy’s hit film, Coming To America.
Rodgers’ winning ways continued into the 1990s when he worked with Michael Jackson, Eric Clapton and some of his past collaborators as well. Though illness slowed Rodgers down in the last decade, he has reemerged with French electronica band Daft Punk, playing on the group’s global hit “Get Lucky” produced by and featuring vocals from Pharrell Williams.
A cancer survivor, the formerly insular Rodgers has been candid about his past struggles with drugs and his tough childhood. However, he speaks fondly of the path he took to become one of the most essential musical figures of modern times.
(Photo: PR Photos)