Though he rarely takes center stage, Chic cofounder Nile Rodgers has had a deeper impact on popular music than most of its marquee stars. Born in The Bronx in 1952, he got his start as a session guitarist while still a teenager, touring with the road show for Sesame Street, then joined the house band at Harlem’s legendary Apollo Theater, where he backed the likes of Aretha Franklin and Parliament-Funkadelic. During his session gigs, he met his future musical partner, bassist Bernard Edwards, and, inspired by British art-rock pioneers Roxy Music, they formed Chic—a band with an image as dialed-in as its sleek grooves would suggest. While Chic's biggest songs—“Le Freak,” “Good Times,” “I Want Your Love”—would define disco in the late ’70s, and continue to shape dance music for decades to follow, Rodgers concurrently established himself as a heavyweight songwriter and producer, collaborating with Edwards on huge hits for other artists, including Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family” and Diana Ross’ “I’m Coming Out.” Equally influential was Rodgers' guitar playing: He eschewed solos and leads for a thin, pointillistic sound that recast the instrument as an agent of rhythm rather than melody. You can also hear this in his production work on David Bowie’s Let’s Dance and Madonna’s Like a Virgin—two of the 1980s' biggest albums—which helped to fold contemporary black music into mainstream pop.
Rodgers remained an in-demand producer and session musician throughout the 1990s and 2000s, but he surged back into the mainstream in 2013 when he cowrote and played on three songs from Daft Punk's Random Access Memories, giving smash hit “Get Lucky” its shimmering guitar line. Speaking to Apple Music before the release of 2018’s It’s About Time—Chic's first album since 1992, four years prior to Edwards' death—Rodgers said, “If I wasn’t learning and having a good time, I wouldn’t do it. My history is already written. I do this, really, because I love it.”
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