Today Nile Rodgers was told he was in full remission from aggressively invasive prostate cancer.
That’s good and let’s face it, any of you 50 odd year old blokes out there will empathise with that.
I am happy for Nile because he made my summer.
Selfish? Perhaps. But heartfelt? Oh yes.
He made my summer because I saw him live on The West Holts Dance Stage closing the first night of my Glastonbury Festival and it was monumental. (described today in The Telegraph as reaching folklore status. 30,000 at a venue that holds 20,000).
He’s done a lot of festivals and gigs around Britain since, so there’s a good chance you too might have seen his angelically clad 11 strong ensemble. If you have you will realise, like me, that he is something of a latter-day day musical God.
But that’s just the half of it.
Read this book.
Then you’ll know it all.
Nile Rodgers, Le Freak, is one of the great music memoires. In that it charts not only a golden era in pop music that he and his bands dominated but it also charts the near destruction of a mega talent addled by drink and drugs.
He was brought up in a fantasy world by junkie parents who frequently abandoned him to a life of substance abuse, starting with glue and ending with shedloads of cocaine and booze.
Which is worse he wonders? Drink seems to be the conclusion. Drink is dirtier.
After all is maw and paw were out and out junkies so maybe drugs ain’t so bad.
You’ll have to rise above this and avoid moral high-grounding if you are going to enjoy this read because he likes a toke or two.
B’nard Edwards fell victim, dying of pneumonia in a Tokyo Hotel bed after a gig with Niles. It was Niles who found him the following morning. But, B’nard wasn’t the only one.
Bowie, Madonna, Duran Duran, Chic, Sister Sledge (those puritanical christians who couldn’t stand Rodger’s ethic, but took the success anyhow) are all given their moments of glory in this glorious travelogue through the clubs of Manhattan.
It feels like Niles wrote it himself, not by a ghost. So, it has its technical flaws, but fuck that.
This is a visceral, beautiful, no gorgeous, celebration of hedonism wrapped up in a blanket of talent.
And you know what?
He got away with it.
You want him to get away with it as you struggle through the genuine challenges that he faced as a youngster and the way he THREW himself at the guitar. In such a way that he became legendary.
He THREW himself at drugs too. But he also THREW himself at production so that he defined not just an era but a genre and a genre that came back to bite him.
Disco, which he never claimed to own, became such a desultory term that he was, post peak of Chic, a musical outcast. A joke.
Yet, he was never a disco diva. He was R and B, R and R.
With a dance flavour.
The theme to this book is this wonderful song that he wrote and that I have many, many times enjoyed, perhaps more than I should have, with my sisters, my wider family, my work colleagues and my fellow festival goers.
I’ve been exhilarated for a reason.
Today he gives us this…
I am so glad this is a celebration and not an obituary.