×

Recording Academy Honoree Nile Rodgers Still Old School After All These Years

As the Producers and Engineers Wing of the Recording Academy prepares to honor him at its annual pre-Grammy celebration, producer-songwriter-musician Nile Rodgers is both humbled and reflective. “Life began for me when a single DJ dropped the needle on my vinyl record, and it’s true,” says Rodgers from his Connecticut home studio. “With the P&E Wing of the Grammys, you are with the people who actually make the music.”

Rodgers, a producer on last year’s multi-Grammy winning Daft Punk triumph “Random Access Memories,” will receive the award for recording excellence on Tuesday at an event being staged at the Village Studios in West Los Angeles.

Making the music is something Rodgers knows how to do well. He has been affiliated with chart-topping hits every decade since the mid-’70s, recordings for the likes of Diana Ross, David Bowie, Duran Duran, Madonna, INXS, Eric Clapton, the B-52s, Sister Sledge and, more recently, Pharrell Williams and Sam Smith.

“We were all just musicians doing what we love to do, which is getting together with someone of a like-minded spirit and creating art,” he says of his work in the studio. “You create something from nothing.”

Rodgers grew up in a mixed-race home in New York’s Greenwich Village. While working as a guitarist in the Sesame Street stage show road production in 1970, he met his partner and bandmate, Bernard Edwards. A year later, they would be part of the legendary Apollo Theater house band and, by the mid ’70s, were backing several R&B singers, including the late Luther Vandross.

While working with Vandross, they formed Chic, with drummer Tony Thompson, scoring a number of top-10 dance and pop hits at the dawn of the disco era, among them “Dance Dance Dance” and “Le Freak.” However, by the early 1980s, disco and Chic had gone out of fashion, and Rodgers and Edwards turned to producing and session work.

“When it got to 1982, I met David Bowie and I was working on these new funky grooves,” says Rodgers. “I wanted them to be funky but not disco.” The result was “Let’s Dance,” Bowie’s commercial comeback and the record that launched Rodgers as a producer in high demand.

While his offers to write and produce for other platinum artists continues to grow, Rodgers is about to release a new Chic record on Warner Brothers, “It’s About Time,” due in stores March 20. The record mixes both new members with the original lineup of Chic and new recordings with uncovered lost Chic tapes from the early 1980s.

“This is very old school,” says Rodgers. “My first single that is coming out has everyone who was on my very first album, including Luther Vandross.

“The process of recording in the old days was big and collaborative,” he adds. “There is no recording from these sessions that we put up that doesn’t sound extraordinary. It was like a time capsule.”

More Music

  • First still from the set of

    Composer Michael Giacchino on Setting the Right Tone for 'Jojo Rabbit'

    Michael Giacchino is a widely respected film composer, with an Oscar and a Grammy for “Up” and an Emmy for “Lost,” as well as a Grammy for “Ratatouille.” He is stirring up Oscar buzz again with his score for Fox Searchlight’s “Jojo Rabbit,” written and directed by Taika Waititi. Giacchino talked with Variety about the [...]

  • Album Review: The Muffs' 'No Holiday'

    Album Review: The Muffs' 'No Holiday'

    It is heartbreaking that Kim Shattuck, the forthright singer and cocksure songwriter for the Muffs, died at the beginning of October. Renowned for her short, sharp brand of power-pop punk song, yearning but prickly lyrics, and screamy, shredded vocals with a tender, expressive edge, Shattuck — who spent time in the Pandoras, the Coolies and, for [...]

  • Hear Prince's Acoustic Demo of 'I

    Hear Prince's Acoustic Demo of 'I Feel for You'

    In honor of the 40th anniversary of Prince’s self-titled second album, “Prince” — which was released on October 19, 1979 — late artist’s estate and Warner Records have released a previously uncirculated, solo acoustic demo recording of his song “I Feel for You,” available on streaming services and as a limited-run 7” vinyl single. The demo features [...]

  • Issa Rae Launches Raedio Label With

    Issa Rae Launches Raedio Label With Atlantic; Watch First Release, TeaMarrr’s ‘Kinda Love’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    Raedio, the new label co-founded by Emmy-nominated actress-producer-writer Issa Rae, and Atlantic Records have announced a new partnership, which kicks off with today’s release of the new single, “Kinda Love,” by singer-rapper TeaMarrr. The companion visual, directed by child (Ari Lennox, Lucky Daye), features cameos from Rae and comedian Jessie Woo — watch it below. [...]

  • Fall Out Boy - Patrick StumpLeeds

    Fall Out Boy's Patrick Stump to Release 'Spell' Soundtrack, Hear First Single Here

    Fall Out Boy frontman Patrick Stump continues his extensive work in the film/TV soundtrack realm with the release of “Spell,” which comes on Nov. 1 on Milan Records through Sony Music Masterworks. The soundtrack features Stump’s music from Crush Pictures’ psych-thriller, including the ballad “Deep Blue Love.” a soulful, blues-tinged ballad performed by Stump and [...]

  • Nancy Matalon

    Spirit Music Group Names Nancy Matalon VP of A&R, Announces Additional Hires

    Publishing company Spirit Music Group, which recently saw a $350 million recapitalization, has made some key staffing moves. Nancy Matalon, a veteran A&R executive who’s worked wit the likes of Fergie, Jennifer Lopez, Public Enemy and Echosmith, among others, has been appointed vice president of A&R. In addition, Spirit has promoted Melanie Santa Rosa to [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content