Hit maker Nile Rodgers on why rock and roll’s Hall of Fame hasn't honoured him yet: ‘Come on, guys’
Super-producer who’s sold more than 100 million discs and penned hit after hit for some of the biggest stars insists he’s not hung up about being passed over so far for industry’s top honour
American funk legend Nile Rodgers says he isn’t getting weird about not yet having entered rock and roll’s Hall of Fame.
The 63-year-old super-producer, guitarist and co-founder of disco trailblazers Chic is the man behind some of the biggest hits of the past five decades. He has sprinkled his gold dust on seminal acts such as Sister Sledge, Diana Ross, David Bowie, Madonna, Duran Duran, Lady Gaga and Daft Punk in an extraordinary career dating back to the 1970s.
WATCH Rodgers play at Clockenflap in Hong Kong
But Chic have so far been overlooked by the Hall of Fame, despite being nominated for the 10th time for the Class of 2016 – alongside Janet Jackson, Chaka Khan, Deep Purple and The Smiths among others – to be announced later this month.
“I honestly, honestly don’t get weird about it,” Grammy-winning composer Rodgers said in Japan, where he is touring after a triumphant performance at Hong Kong’s Clockenflap festival last month. “I can’t figure out what the criterion is. It’s actually sort of funny.
“If it’s not based on statistics then it’s just an opinion poll deciding this person’s cooler than that person,” he added with a smile and a shake of his dreadlocks. “But if a hall of fame is something that says this person had 20 gold records or influenced this amount of people, I’ve sold more records than almost anyone in there. I’ve written more hit records than almost everybody in the Hall of Fame. Come on, guys!”
Rodgers and the current line-up of Chic rattled off a dizzying array of dance-floor classics in Tokyo, including Le Freak and Good Times – one of the most sampled tunes in music, notably in hip hop, with its instantly recognisable bass line and trademark choppy guitar riff.
But Rodgers, who has sold more than 100 million records, admitted before the show that few people know he likely provided the soundtrack to their youth.
“Most people don’t know I wrote We are Family, or I’m Coming Out – they don’t know that. They just go oh, it’s Sister Sledge, or oh it’s Diana Ross,” he said in his dressing room, sporting sunglasses and a white beret.
“When David Bowie walked into my bedroom and played his version of Let’s Dance, it didn’t sound anything like the one everybody knows and loves. It was sort of like a folk song. Most of the things I have done, nobody knows that I did them.”
As a reminder, Chic’s current live show – the one Rodgers also performed in Hong Kong – features versions of Bowie’s hit, Madonna’s Like a Virgin, Duran Duran’s Notorious and Daft Punk’s disco romp Get Lucky, which was co-written by Rodgers and Pharrell Williams and has sold almost 10 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best-selling songs of all time.
“You can be innovative,” Rodgers says of his collaborations. “The Diana Ross record doesn’t sound anything like the Sister Sledge record. Bowie’s record doesn’t sound anything like the B-52’s. Diana Ross’ album is the only album that sounds like that that I’ve ever written. Nothing else sounds like that.”
Trendy young women rubbed shoulders with suited businessmen in their fifties at Chic’s sell-out performance in Tokyo, a city with a strong emotional pull for Rodgers since bassist Bernard Edwards collapsed and died from illness after a show here in 1996.
Rodgers, who battled alcohol and cocaine addiction in the past, survived a cancer scare in 2010 but shows no sign of slowing down.
And he is still in huge demand, having recently delivered tracks to Australian country singer Keith Urban and Stargate, the Norwegian producers behind many of Rihanna’s and Katy Perry’s hits.
He has also written with Sam Smith, Swedish DJ Avicii and British electro rockers Disclosure; while being interviewed, he receives an e-mail of thanks from Hugh Jackman for helping to score the Australian actor’s new one-man show.
“There’s no difference between writing with Sam Smith and writing with David Bowie – I always try to see the world through their reality,” insists Rodgers, before raving about his latest project with British soul diva Laura Mvula.
“It’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. It’s going to kill you, it’s smokin’!”