The essential Nile Rodgers: He’s behind many of the hits you’ve heard

Nile Rodgers and the band Chic perform in Dallas in 2017.
Nile Rodgers and the band Chic perform in Dallas in 2017. File photo

Nile Rodgers is one of this year’s Hopscotch main-stage headliners, under the rubric of his disco-era band Chic — with whom he scaled some pretty impressive heights 40 years ago.

But Rodgers, who went into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year, is just as important for his behind-the-scenes work as writer and producer. Here is a top-10 of his notable hits, then and now.

1. Chic, “Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)“ (1977)

And to think it started as a joke. Rodgers has claimed that he wrote this song out of frustration, after record companies dismissed his black rock band with chief collaborator Bernard Edwards as unviable. So they borrowed a few thousand bucks to record it, and “Dance, Dance, Dance” became Chic’s first top-10 hit and a disco-era classic.

2. Chic, “Le Freak” (1978)

“Le Freak” proved that Chic was more than just a one-hit wonder. It was their first No. 1 hit and has been in the air ever since, appearing in countless movie soundtracks and commercials.

3. Sugar Hill Gang, “Rapper’s Delight” (1979)

While technically not a Rodgers-Edwards-Chic work, “Rapper’s Delight” still bears their stamp because it’s built on the arrangement from Chic’s 1979 No. 1 hit “Good Times.” And thus hip-hop was born.

4. Sister Sledge, “We Are Family” (1979)

Another enduring Rodgers/Edwards collaboration, especially after it emerged as unofficial theme song for the 1979 World Series champion Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team.

5. David Bowie, “Let’s Dance” (1983)

In the early 1980s, Bowie got interested in making hits again. So he enlisted Rodgers as co-producer for the single and album that re-commercialized his career.

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6. Madonna, “Like a Virgin” (1984)

Madonna did not become a truly massive, omnipresent star until this Rodgers-produced breakthrough. The title track was the first of her many No. 1 hits.

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7. B-52’s, “Roam” from “Cosmic Thing” (1989)

After the 1985 death of guitarist/founding member Ricky Wilson, the B-52’s seemed just about done until they hooked up with Rodgers and Don Was as co-producers of this comeback album. Was oversaw “Love Shack,” but Rodgers produced the album’s most interesting track “Roam” — both big, big hits.

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8. Vaughan Brothers, “Family Style” (1990)

Stevie Ray Vaughan, who played guitar on Bowie’s “Let’s Dance,” died in a 1990 helicopter crash. That cut short his collaborative partnership with big brother Jimmie Vaughan before it could really get going. But the Vaughan Brothers did make one blues-pop masterpiece, with Rodgers producing.

9. Notorious B.I.G., “Mo Money Mo Problems” (1997)

This was a posthumous hit from onetime Raleigh resident Chritsopher “Biggie” Wallace’s aptly titled “Life After Death” album. And its hook was a Rodgers/Edwards production, Diana Ross’ 1980 hit “I’m Coming Out,” the once-and-future Supreme’s last inarguably classic work.

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10. Daft Punk, “Get Lucky” (2013)

Going on 40 years after “Dance, Dance, Dance,” Rodgers is still making hits. He co-wrote “Get Lucky,” and it stands as the peak of a Rodgers run that included work with Sam Smith and the late deejay Avici. “Get Lucky” is the rare “record of the year” Grammy winner worthy of the title. Five years after it topped the charts around the globe, “Get Lucky” is shaping up as another Rodgers song that will linger for decades.

David Menconi: 919-829-4759, @NCDavidMenconi


What: Hopscotch Music Festival

When: Sept. 6-8

Where: Downtown Raleigh. Multiple venues

Cost: Weekend passes: $199 general admission. $299 VIP. Single-day passes: $75-$89. Single-show passes: $35-$50. See festival site for specifics.

Info: hopscotchmusicfest.com

Headliner schedule

Thursday, Sept. 6

City Plaza: Gates open at 5:30 p.m.

5:50 p.m. HC McEntire

7:15 p.m. Real Estate

8:45 p.m. The Flaming Lips

Friday, Sept. 7

City Plaza: Gates open at 5:30 p.m.

5:50 p.m. Mipso

7:15 p.m. Thundercat

8:45 p.m. Grizzly Bear

Red Hat Amphitheater: Gates open at 5 p.m.

5:30 p.m. m8alla

6:40 p.m. DVSN

8 p.m. Miguel

Saturday, Sept. 8

City Plaza: Gates open at 5 p.m.

5:15 p.m. Zack Mexico

5:50 p.m. Speedy Ortiz

7:15 p.m. Liz Phair

8:45 p.m. MC50

Red Hat Amphitheater, Gates open at 5 p.m.

5:30 p.m. Boulevards

6:40 p.m. Moses Sumney

8 p.m. Nile Rodgers & Chic

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