Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



Disco band formed '77 by Bernard Edwards (b 31 Oct. '52, Greenville NC; d 18 April '96, Tokyo), bass, Nile Rodgers (b 19 Sep. '52, NYC). They met in a local post office in NYC; after playing in countless bar bands; they formed the Big Apple Band with ex-Patti LaBelle drummer Tony Thompson (b 15 Nov. '54, NYC; d 12 Nov. 2003 in L.A. of cancer). Rodgers had run the gamut from folk (New World Rising) to punk (Allah and the Knife-Wielding Punks) as well as the Apollo house band. Big Apple briefly backed New York City, a vocal group produced by Thom Bell (e.g. '73 hit 'I'm Doing Fine Now'), but success began when disc jockey Rob Drake played demos in the Night Owl Club and Atlantic picked up on the audience reaction. The were renamed Chic because Walter Murphy and the Big Apple Band had a no. 1 hit '76 (disco-fied Beethoven from Saturday Night Fever soundtrack); recruited Norma Jean Wright and Alfa Anderson (b 7 Sep. '46, Augusta GA: ex-Brown Sugar; sang in The Wiz soundtrack) to sing. First single 'Dance Dance Dance' (on LP Chic '77) was no. 6 both USA/UK, placed band in the vanguard of disco. Wright quit for solo career, replaced by Luci Martin (b 10 Jan. '55, NYC; toured with Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar). Good singers were the icing on a firm musical cake: the upfront pulsing bass of Edwards (the most imitated black bassist since Family Stone's Larry Graham) with scratchy, compulsive rhythm guitar of Rodgers, metronomic yet powerful beat from human drum machine Thompson, and strings. The formula brought hit after hit: 'Everybody Dance' (no. 38 USA/9 UK), 'Le Freak' (no. 1 USA/7 UK, five million sold, both '78), 'I Want Your Love' (no. 7 USA/4 UK), anthemic 'Good Times' (no. 1 USA/5 UK, both '79). Second and third albums C'est Chic '78, Risqué '79 both went platinum, unusual for disco LPs. Compilation Greatest Hits '79 only two years on emphasized their whirlwind success, but they gradually lost their edge as they were in demand playing/prod. for others, e.g. on Diana Ross's Diana '80, also for Sheila B. Devotion (European dance production), Debbie Harry, Sister Sledge. Soundtrack Soup For One '82 didn't gel; projected albums with Johnny Mathis and Aretha Franklin failed to happen; Chic albums Real People '80, Take It Off '81 (with horns replacing strings), Tongue In Chic '82 confirmed their fall from grace; Rodgers and Edwards split amicably '83. Solo LPs Glad To Be Here (Edwards), In The Land Of The Good Groove (Rodgers) were mediocre; comeback Chic album Believer '83 showed promise, but when original Chic fans became big acts (Duran Duran, Kim Wilde, Thompson Twins, Madonna) their prominence returned: Rodgers produced and remixed those named, Edwards produced Duran spin-off Power Station's '85 LP with Thompson as drummer, Rodgers produced David Bowie's Let's Dance '83, again with Thompson. In '85 Thompson played with re-formed Led Zeppelin on the Live Aid show; Rodgers produced Mick Jagger's solo LP She's The Boss. Wham! invariably covered 'Good Times' on stage (the hedonistic disco anthem) and the Sugarhill Gang used it as a basis for 'Rapper's Delight', Queen rewrote it for 'Another One Bites The Dust'. Edwards produced Rod Stewart and was behind the James Bond soundtrack A View To A Kill '85, Robert Palmer's hit 'Addicted To Love' '86; they re-formed for Chic-ism '92 on WB and re-created the old magic (cf. 'Chic Mystique'). Briefly the best-selling act ever on Atlantic, Chic's influence on both black and white music could be compared to that of Chuck Berry on the Rolling Stones.