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Best Bernard Edwards Basslines: 10 Disco Classics From Chic And More
List & Guides

Best Bernard Edwards Basslines: 10 Disco Classics From Chic And More

From epic disco rhythms for Chic to sophisti-funk session work, the best Bernard Edwards basslines prove why he’s a master of funky grooves.

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As the bassist for disco godfathers Chic, it’s easy to see why Bernard Edwards is considered by many to be one of the best bassists of all time]. A true maestro of groove and feel known for his unique playing style, Edwards created spellbinding basslines that not only helped secure Chic’s disco legacy, but, by sprinkling his funky magic over tracks for Madonna, Diana Ross and Sister Sledge, he revolutionised pop music and kept disco alive well into the 80s and 90s. In fact, Edwards’ influence can even be felt in the evolution of hip-hop and dance music. From the floor-thumping funk foundation of Madonna’s Material Girl to the staccato tones of Chic’s Good Times, here is our list of the best Bernard Edwards basslines.

Listen to the best of Chic here, and check out the best Bernard Edwards basslines, below.

10: Chic: Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah) (from ‘Chic’, 1977)

Propelling the song with a high-speed locomotive groove, with only a few rumbling, repetitive notes to shake the dancefloor, the bassline for Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah) was one of disco’s most innovative floor-fillers. Funky and upbeat, Edwards’ playing refocuses the listener on the feel of the groove, making for a distraction from how complex the rest of Nile Rodgers’ arrangement for the song was. What sets it apart is the way the vinyl itself was cut, which arguably revolutionised the way bass grooves could sound. “We cut deeper and wider grooves to have that bass response,” Rodgers later said, “so you could take that record home and it didn’t skip. We were pushing the limit.” This game-changing innovation was a highlight of Chic’s self-titled debut album, and it would go on to influence the rise of both hip-hop and dance music.

9: Diana Ross: Upside Down (from ‘Diana’, 1980)

Adding a countermelody to provide a contrast to Diana Ross’ vocal line, Bernard Edwards’ work on the Motown legend’s 1980 solo single Upside Down is instantly recognisable yet deceptively simple. With a straightforward, repeating figure that sets up the groove, it starts with a downward slide before settling into a rhythm that is equal parts funky and hypnotic, moving up the scale for the chorus. As the perfect foundation for Ross’ soaring vocal performance, this contender among the best Bernard Edwards basslines makes Upside Down one of the greatest pop songs of all time.

8: Madonna: Material Girl (from ‘Like A Virgin’, 1984)

Driving Madonna’s smash hit Material Girl forward with unrelenting energy, Bernard Edwards’ bassline consists of just four notes repeating over and over again – yet it’s this simplicity that makes the song so effective, swaggering as it does with heavy dollops of confidence and an assertiveness that brings out the best in Madonna’s performance. With the immediacy of an advertising jingle, Edwards’ thumping groove brilliantly encapsulates the materialism and superficiality Madonna explores in the song, while harbouring a sly sense of humour that keeps things from getting too heavy-handed. The third in a record-breaking run of Madonna No.1 singles on the Billboard dance charts, Material Girl remains one of the best Madonna songs all these years later.

7: Chic: I Want Your Love (from ‘C’est Chic’, 1978)

Inspired by the 70s funk music he grew up with, Bernard Edwards drew upon his formative R&B influences to showcase his virtuosity on I Want Your Love, a 1978 hit for Chic which easily boasts one of the best Bernard Edwards basslines. Incredibly catchy and effective, its church-bell-like rhythm, with a repeating pattern of just four notes, diverges from time to time with a bliss-inducing set of winding Fender Precision fills to keep things fresh. “I usually start more basic,” Edwards later said. “I don’t like to get too note-y and it’s usually a reaction to some rhythm that Nile’s playing.”

6: Sister Sledge: He’s The Greatest Dancer (from ‘We Are Family’, 1979)

Riding along to the kind of bassline you can’t help but tap your foot to, Sister Sledge’s 1979 single He’s The Greatest Dancer proves why Bernard Edwards was the chief architect of disco revelry. No matter where you are or what you’re doing, Edwards’ playing is positively arresting, underscoring the catchiness and danceability of Nile Rodgers’ guitar riff and securing Sister Sledge their first major hit. Played on Edwards’ trusty Fender Precision Bass, the groove would later be memorably sampled by Will Smith on his 1998 hit Getting’ Jiggy Wit It.

5: Diana Ross: I’m Coming Out (from ‘Diana’, 1980)

Though later generations may be more familiar with Puff Daddy’s sampling of I’m Coming Out’s bass groove on The Notorious B.I.G.’s Mo Money Mo Problems, it’s best to go back to the source to understand what makes it a vital inclusion among the best Bernard Edwards basslines. Diana Ross’ 1980 hit is innately funky, soulful and catchy, and though it tends to be overlooked in the wash of Ross’ vocals, Edwards’ contribution is essential, giving the song depth and feeling, and making it a great deal funkier than most pop songs of the era.

4: Sister Sledge: We Are Family (from ‘We Are Family’, 1979)

An anthem for families all over the world, as well as one of the best LGBTQ+ Pride songs of all time, Sister Sledge’s single We Are Family boasts a truly infectious groove. With some of Bernard Edwards’ finest elasticated slap-bass fills deployed over a majestic series of sinuous notes, it’s a soulful tour de force played with such feeling that makes it a song everyone can enjoy. More than just an ode to sisterhood, We Are Family keeps you coming back for more, leaving little doubt over its place among the best Bernard Edwards basslines.

3: Chic: Le Freak (from ‘C’est Chic’, 1978)

With a syncopated feel that gives the song much of its energy, Bernard Edwards’ bassline on Chic’s 1978 disco anthem Le Freak was nothing short of phenomenal. Playing on the downbeat for the first two notes, before drifting to upbeats on the third and fourth notes, Edwards’ skittish underpinning remains one of the most iconic grooves in pop music history. Giving Le Freak a jittersome and fidgety feel, it’s a sublime bass performance chock-full with sliding fretwork that skitters along with hip-swinging panache, and it set fire to the charts upon its release in September 1978, peaking at No.1 on the US Hot 100.

2: Chic: Everybody Dance (from ‘C’est Chic’, 1978)

Weaving in and out of the melody like a master, Bernard Edwards worked up one of his most challenging basslines for Chic’s 1978 hit Everybody Dance. Packed with slides and trills, it’s a textbook example of Edwards’ “slap and pop” attack, with everything from fleet fingerstyle patterns to rapid-pace slapping bringing the song to life. Ranking highly on our list of the best Bernard Edwards basslines, Everybody Dance’s distinctive groove is often imitated but incredibly hard to duplicate.

1: Chic: Good Times (from ‘Risqué’, 1979)

Immediately landing as one of the best 70s basslines – if not one of the best basslines in history – Bernard Edwards’ super-cool groove for Chic’s 1979 single Good Times is so iconic, not only has it been sampled numerous times (most notably by The Sugarhill Gang on Rapper’s Delight, taking hip-hop into the mainstream in the process) but it has also inspired countless imitators. From Queen’s John Deacon (Another One Bites The Dust) to Blondie’s Nigel Harrison (Rapture), bass players the world over were seduced by Edwards’ beguiling staccato notes on the second beat of each measure, and hypnotised by the vamps he used to fill out the sound.

“My main role is to keep the bottom there, keep the grove solid and steady,” Edwards later said of his style. “I play a lot on the E and A strings and I play down in the first five frets mainly to keep a really fat, chunky sound.” Neither busy nor overly complicated, the beauty of Edwards’ contribution to Good Times lies in its simplicity, but it’s hard not to marvel at his ability to create a memorable hook that has stood the test of time. People the world over know Good Times as soon as they hear it, and it’s frankly impossible not to dance to it. That’s what makes the Chic co-founder one of the greatest bassists who ever lived, with Good Times easily topping our list of the best Bernard Edwards basslines.

You’ve seen the best Bernard Edwards basslines, now find out the best Chic songs of all time.

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