The Most Influential Man in Music That You’ve Probably Never Heard of
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If you had to name the most influential person in the history of modern music, who would it be? Michael Jackson, whose “Thriller” album broke sales records and revolutionized music videos or Elvis Presley who took rock n’ roll mainstream? You’d be wrong. The most influential man in music, at least in the last century, is a man few have heard of, but whose music everyone has heard: Nile Rodgers.
Rodgers has written or produced some of the most memorable, most sampled and karaoke-ied songs ever: “We Are Family,” by Sister Sledge, “Like a Virgin” by Madonna, “Modern Love,” by David Bowie and “Le Freak” (or as most of us probably call it “The “Freak Out” song.) He’s also credited with giving legends like Diana Ross and David Bowie the biggest albums of their careers and giving soundtracks to some of Hollywood’s biggest movies too, among them “Coming to America” and “Thelma & Louise.” Rodgers is considered by many a musical genius, whose ear for composition is akin to Michael Jordan’s gifts on the court. As impressive as his success is, it’s even more impressive considering his childhood, which included not one, not two, but three drug addicted parents and a mother who had barely reached her teen years when she gave birth to him. Rodgers writes candidly of his own battle with addiction, and the role a Madonna encounter played in his choice to get sober. Loop21 caught up with Rodgers for a discussion of “Le Freak,” in stores now.
Loop 21: You grew up in a multiracial household before that was more common with a white stepdad. Do you think that influenced your appreciation of so many types of music and your ability to work with so many artists of different races?
Nile Rodgers: In a word—yes. But I should add that I can theorize that the reason I have this diverse palate for music is because of my environment and the people around me, yet I also believe that I developed my own taste after I was exposed to certain things. It’s like a taste for food. I don’t think anyone is born liking caviar. But once you develop a taste for it you start to look for other things that are more sophisticated and challenge your taste buds.
Loop 21: What’s your all time favorite song you’ve written for someone else?