Nile Rodgers: soundtrack of my life

The leadman of Chic and hugely successful music producer on singing along to Elvis in little blue suede shoes, dropping acid with Timothy Leary and how Roxy Music led to Chic


"Blue Suede Shoes", Elvis (1956)

When I was very young, there was a lot of music at home, mostly jazz. I was walking around singing and pretending I was in bands from a very young age. But the first song that was really personal to me was "Blue Suede Shoes". When I was five, my grandma gave me a pair of blue suede shoes, along with the record. I would dance around the front room in my shoes, listening to it, pretending I was Elvis.


Porgy and Bess, George Gershwin (1935)

I used to play flute and clarinet at school, and although I wasn't thinking about making a living or getting a pay cheque, I already knew I was going to play music all my life. That was probably the happiest time of my life. Gershwin had a mega influence on me and the music from Porgy and Bess was especially powerful. Not just "Summertime", but songs such as "I Loves You Porgy" and "There's a Boat Dat's Leavin' Soon For New York". I liked the more sophisticated stuff, because I could play.


The End, the Doors (1967)

When I was about 15 and living in LA, I got turned on to what people call the hippie scene, although they called themselves "freaks". The freaks invited us to a party at their house and gave us acid. Timothy Leary was there and I heard "The End" by the Doors, which had just come out and sounded amazing to me. I was tripping in this house for a day and half and they just kept playing this song over and over. I'd never heard of the Doors before but the freaks turned me on to them, Love and the Monkees.


"Hijack", Herbie Mann (1975)

"Hi-Jack" changed a lot of things for us when we starting Chic. I had always known Herbie Mann as a jazz flautist. He wasn't a virtuoso like Eric Dolphy or Yusef Lateef, he was more of a commercial jazz player. So when he came up with "Hijack", with a chorus that went: "I'm going to steal your love", and everyone would groove to it in the clubs, I thought, wow, we could do this. Not only could I groove, but I was a good musician. Seeing Roxy Music live in London was equally important, as they showed me how you could create a completely immersive experience. I called my partner, Bernard Edwards, in New York after the show and said: "Man, I got the concept for our new band."


"Rapper's Delight", Sugarhill Gang (1979)

Hip-hop's big bang was "Rapper's Delight", which was based on a sample of our record "Good Times". It was the first time I heard a record sample another record in that way, a musical collage, where the person who puts the collage together gets all the hoopla, rather than the people who created the original art. We'd seen this cut-and-paste approach in art, but not in music. We ended up suing them and reaching a settlement. Chic are now one of the most sampled groups ever.


"Otis", Jay-Z and Kanye West (2011)

The last great song I heard was Kanye West and Jay-Z's recent single "Otis", from their collaboration album Watch the Throne. I heard it on the way to the studio yesterday. It samples Otis Redding's "Try a Little Tenderness", so I think it's cool that they give that recognition to him in the title of the song.

Listen to this playlist on Spotify


Luke Bainbridge

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Robby Krieger: soundtrack of my life

The former Doors guitarist tells Hermione Hoby about discovering rock'n'roll, blues and jazz and his memories of recording with Jim Morrison

Interview by Hermione Hoby

29, Jan, 2012 @12:05 AM

Article image
Johnny Marr: soundtrack of my life

The former Smiths guitarist tells Craig McLean about his love for Chic, bonding with Morrissey over Bob and Marcia and the raw power of the Stooges

Craig McLean

29, Jun, 2013 @11:04 PM

Article image
Ghostpoet: soundtrack of my life
The Mercury-nominated rapper on dancing to UB40 as a child and his Muddy Waters obsession

Interview by Killian Fox

29, Mar, 2015 @7:00 AM

Article image
Debbie Harry: soundtrack of my life

The Blondie singer on the outrageous example of Screamin' Jay Hawkins, the folk happenings of the hippy era and unwinding with a bit of Bizet. Interview by Jude Rogers

Interview by Jude Rogers

30, Mar, 2014 @12:00 AM

Article image
DJ Shadow: soundtrack of my life

The Californian hip-hop artist and record-digger extraordinaire tells Gareth Grundy about his love of James Brown, his thirst for new music, and why Dr Dre sounds like home

Interview by Gareth Grundy

01, Sep, 2012 @11:05 PM

Article image
Elton John: soundtrack of my life

The singer tells Leah Harper about the influence of Elvis (and his mum), the brilliance of Bruce Hornsby and Bridge Over Troubled Water, and the musician who always turns the most heads at his famous parties

Interview by Leah Harper

31, Aug, 2013 @11:04 PM

Article image
Geoff Barrow: soundtrack of my life

Portishead producer Geoff Barrow talks to Ally Carnwath about the Laughing Policeman, body-popping to Afrika Bambaataa and his belated discovery of Can

Ally Carnwath

23, Jun, 2012 @11:04 PM

Article image
St Vincent: soundtrack of my life

Annie Clark, aka St Vincent, tells Tim Lewis about a Texas childhood of road trips and sunny days sharing music with friends

Interview by Tim Lewis

26, Feb, 2012 @12:01 AM

Article image
Ezra Koenig: Soundtrack of My Life

Vampire Weekend's frontman Ezra Koenig shares his love of the Lonely Island and the Kinks with Gareth Grundy

Gareth Grundy

28, Nov, 2010 @12:06 AM

Article image
Stevie Nicks: Soundtrack of my life

The Fleetwood Mac veteran and solo star tells Gareth Grundy about the music that has inspired her through her 40-year career

Interview by Gareth Grundy

25, Jun, 2011 @11:05 PM