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Best Nile Rodgers Songs: 10 Classics From Chic’s Floor-Filling Freak
Photo courtesy of Baxter PR
List & Guides

Best Nile Rodgers Songs: 10 Classics From Chic’s Floor-Filling Freak

He made his name with Chic, but the best Nile Rodgers songs can be found scattered across records by Bowie, Madonna and more…

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A hitmaker that has spanned the generations, Nile Rodgers broke through in the 70s, became the go-to starmaker of the 80s, and continues to record and play live to this day, still creating huge hits and drawing massive crowds to his concerts. Aside from his pioneering work with Chic, the guitarist, songwriter and producer, born 19 September 1952, counts David Bowie, Madonna, Daft Punk and more among his collaborators, which has made choosing the best Nile Rodgers songs quite a challenge. These ten will, however, keep the good times rolling long past quarter to ten…

Listen to the best of Chic here, and check out our best Nile Rodgers songs, below.

10: The B-52s: Roam (1989)

The decision to work with Don Was and Nile Rodgers on 1989’s Cosmic Thing proved a canny move for this cult act. The album catapulted The B-52s into the mainstream and gave them – no doubt to their own surprise – a Billboard chart-topper with party perennial Love Shack. Roam was the group’s follow-up single (and actually the third cut lifted from the record). Riffing on an almost folk-like vibe, it’s a more melodic offering than its predecessor, and one of six Nile Rodgers-produced songs which helped make the ten-track album the band’s biggest commercial success.

9: Carly Simon: Why (1982)

This song could beg the question: why wasn’t it the biggest hit of Carly’ Simon’s long career? Why did OK in the UK (making the Top 10 in 1982) but inexplicably failed to catch light stateside, peaking at an underwhelming No.74. Perhaps it was down to the fact it was tucked away on the soundtrack to the long-forgotten sex comedy Soup For One, or maybe US radio, still then smarting from the “Disco Sucks” backlash, found Foreigner and the like more compelling… Thankfully, Why’s restitution came to pass during the dance revolution at the end of the 80s, when it was rightly adopted as a latter-day Balearic anthem.

8: Duran Duran: Notorious (1986)

After Duran Duran splintered in different directions in 1985, the Notorious album became something of a healing salve, with what was left of the British New Romantic pioneers returning to the man who had crafted their biggest international success. With its parent album, Nile Rodgers created a bona fide classic fusing Duran Duran’s new-wave rock with punchy funk bass and brass on cuts such as Skin Trade and, this, its title track and lead single from 1986. More than earning its place among the best Nile Rodgers songs, Notorious also proved that Duran Duran could still prosper as a three-piece after much of the teenage screaming had stopped.

7: Madonna: Like A Virgin (1984)

Madonna’s self-titled debut album had been a high-octane disco affair that broke through on the back of some great tunes and the future “Queen Of Pop”’s indisputable charisma. Working with Nile Rodgers on her second record was a calculated move to add some ballast to the proceedings and broaden her appeal even wider – and it resulted in some of the best Madonna songs of all time. Rodgers’ chunky pop production on Like A Virgin, coupled with increasing budgets for her legendary videos, made Madonna the biggest female act of the 80s and an international icon. Many said her debut performance of this soon-to-be US chart-topper at the first MTV Video Awards, in 1984, would kill her career. Madonna, however, knew she was just getting started…

6: Chic: Good Times (1979)

Is Chic a true collaboration or just the Nile Rodgers house band? We’d argue the group’s success was down to the the chemistry of Rodgers and long-serving brother-in-arms, bassist Bernard Edwards, who died tragically young, in 1996. That said, the best Chic songs bear Rodgers’ unmistakable touch, and Good Times became the band’s second US chart-topper in August 1979, after the anthemic Le Freak. Though that ubiquitous track somehow is Nile Rodgers, Good Times is an everyman tune, routinely sampled by rappers and still prevalent in contemporary pop to this day.

5: Duran Duran: The Reflex (1984)

The brilliance of Nile Rodgers’ ear is best demonstrated by how he turned this album track on Seven And The Ragged Tiger into the most successful single of Duran Duran’s career by adding stuttering synth-soul stylings to the recording and drawing out its dancefloor appeal. Topping the charts on both sides of the Atlantic, The Reflex consolidated the group’s appeal in the US (brilliantly documented on the Sing Blue Silver documentary) after a lengthy tour, and would see Rodgers helm future contenders among the best Duran Duran songs, including The Wild Boys, issued as this single’s follow-up.

4: David Bowie: Let’s Dance (1983)

After the relentless pace of the 70s, David Bowie’s output slowed somewhat across the next decade, but he would become an even bigger star than before. This is in no doubt down to the smart pairing with Nile Rodgers on the Let’s Dance album, Bowie’s 15th studio collection and his first since leaving his longtime home of RCA to sign with EMI. Whether from the pressure of a new label or just a need to adjust to the high-octane demands of the new decade, Bowie wanted hits, and knew the man who could supply them. “It’s probably the simplest album I’ve ever done,” said Bowie. “It’s the most positive, emotional, uplifting album I’ve made in a long time.” The globe agreed, and Let’s Dance became his ultimate best-seller, its title track topping both the US and UK charts while also asserting itself among the best Nile Rodgers songs.

3: Diana Ross: Upside Down (1980)

Like many celebrated music divas, Diana Ross knew enduring success depended in part on working out who next to collaborate with. She hadn’t been blind to the disco revolution, and working with Nile Rodgers gave her the biggest hit of her career stateside, after a long run without a Top 10 single. Upside Down would sit at No.1 in the US charts for four weeks but, upon first hearing the album they had created together, Ross was worried she just sounded like a guest act on a Chic record. She demanded the right to remix the recordings and, after a furious row, got her way. In the end, both parties called it right: her voice was elevated in the tracks and diana became the most successful album of the singer’s solo career, which started in 1970 after she quit Motown hit-machine The Supremes.

2: Sister Sledge: We Are Family (1988)

Sister Sledge’s early years were tough, with intermittent success and the constant threat of being dropped by their record label. So, the decision to pair the family act with Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards proved something of a lifeline. The We Are Family album, issued at the start of 1979, was the band’s third record, and it became a huge hit, with four classic singles being issued to international acclaim. The We Are Family song itself was the second of those, after He’s The Greatest Dancer and ahead of Lost In Music and Thinking Of You. Nile would say the album was the best collection of songs he and Bernard worked on together as The Chic Organisation, and, after becoming a hit all over again in Europe in 1993, its title track still fills floors to this day. It now sits in the American National Recording Registry’s Library Of Congress as a song of cultural and historical significance.

1: Daft Punk (Featuring Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers): Get Lucky (2013)

The legendary French electronic duo’s flair for drawing out the soul in their robotic sound is the magic ingredient in the incredible success of the best Daft Punk songs. In 2013, the act had been off the scene for a while and had never had a major US hit. Get Lucky changed all that when it exploded across the airwaves in a burst of contemporary disco, funk and pop. Efforts to collaborate with Nile Rodgers had taken some time to come good, with the guitarist adding the trademark riff in careful layering across a rough cut of this tune. The result was later named Record Of The Year at the Grammys and is undoubtedly one of the best-remembered songs of the past decade. In February 2021, Daft Punk called it a day, but, topping our list of the best Nile Rodgers songs, this is the track they’ll be remembered for forever.

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