Review: ‘Nile Rodgers — The Hitmaker’


It’s quite likely that if you are of the younger generation you will not have heard the name Nile Rodgers. You will though most certainly have heard at least one of his songs.

The multi-talented Nile Rodgers performing in 2012.


Nile Rodgers: The Hitmaker is currently on BBC iplayer for those who can receive it.

If there is one word that defines the man as an artist, it is eclectic. If there is one that defines him as a human being, it is survivor. In December 2011, he described in graphic detail to a BBC audience how he died eight times, going seven better than Nicki Sixx.

In this hour long BBC documentary, native New Yorker Nile explains how he grew up around music – mostly jazz – but moved (via Sesame Street) into disco – a sound he helped define with songwriting partner Bernard Edwards and their creation Chic through Sister Sledge – then went on to work as an A League producer with rock musicians from Bryan Ferry, a major influence; to Duran Duran; guitar virtuoso Jeff Beck; and helping make Madonna one of the biggest female stars on the planet. For that alone we can forgive the part he played in inspiring hip hop.

Although he has a unique guitar style, there are no rock-style solos in his work, but by and large this is uptempo commercial music with a feelgood aura about it.

Whether you call him disco, middle of the road or rock producer, he lived the lifestyle that has killed many less fortunate fellow travellers, but it was not hard living that killed Bernard Edwards. It’s difficulty to believe he will have been gone seventeen years next month.

In April 1996, he and Nile were playing in Japan when he was taken ill. The doctor told him he had to go to hospital immediately, but Bernard said the show had to go on. And it killed him. Nile recalls the last words his partner spoke to him over the phone from his hotel room: “I’ll just need to rest”.

It was Nile who found his body; he had died from pneumonia aged only 43.

Fortunately for both himself and music, Nile put the drugs behind him; like especially Keith Richards, he is living proof that longevity is 90% genetic, so hopefully he will be making music for many years to come, as both a producer and in his own right. Whatever he may be doing in the studio, Nile will be in the UK for the Mostly Jazz, Funk And Soul Festival at Birmingham later this year.

[The above article was first published March 31, 2013.]

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