1976–1978: Origins and early singersNile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards met in 1970, as fellow session musicians working around the New York City circuit. They formed a rock band called The Boys and later The Big Apple Band, playing numerous gigs around New York City. But despite interest in their demos, they could not get a record contract, possibly in part because music companies of the time didn't believe that black artists could create saleable rock music.
In 1977, Edwards and Rodgers had former LaBelle and Ecstasy, Passion, & Pain drummer Tony Thompson join the band, performing as a trio doing covers at various gigs. Needing a singer to become a full band, they engaged Norma Jean Wright under an agreement that she wanted to have a dual career between the band and her solo career. Using a young recording engineer Bob Clearmountain, they created a demo tape which included the tracks "Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)" and "Everybody Dance," which sent the renamed Chic out on the road as a support act.
Now signed to Atlantic Records, in 1977 they released the self-titled debut album Chic which was an extension of the demo tape. But Edwards and Rogers were now convinced that to replicate the bands recording studio sound live in sound and visuals, they needed to add another female singer to front the band. Wright suggested her friend Luci Martin, who became a member in late winter/early spring of 1978.
Right after the sessions ended for its debut album, the band members began to work on Wright's self-titled debut solo album Norma Jean, released in 1978. This album contained club hit "Saturday." To facilitate Wright's solo career, intended to be parallel to her Chic career, the band had agreed to sign her to a separate contract and label. Unfortunately the legalities of this contract eventually forced Wright to leave the band in mid-1978, but not before she took part in the sessions for Chic-produced Sister Sledge album We Are Family. She was replaced by Alfa Anderson, who had been on back up vocals on the band’s debut album. For the Sister Sledge project, Edwards and Rogers wrote and produced "He's the Greatest Dancer" (originally intended to be a Chic song) in exchange for "I Want Your Love" (originally intended to be performed by Sister Sledge).
1978–1979: "Le Freak" and "Good Times"In late 1978, the band released C'est Chic, containing one of its best-known tracks, "Le Freak." Created from a champagne-fuelled jam session in Edwards apartment, after they had failed on New Years Eve to meet with Grace Jones at New York's exclusive nightclub Studio 54. The original hook line "Aaa, fuck off" aimed at the door men at Studio 54, was replaced that night with "Aaa, freak out" after trying a version with "Aaa, freak off." The resultant single was a massive success, topping the US charts and selling over 6 million copies. It was the biggest selling single ever of Atlantic's parent company, Warner Music, until replaced by Madonna's Vogue in 1990.
The following year, the group released the Risqué album and the lead track "Good Times", one of the most influential songs of the era. The track formed the backbone of Grandmaster Flash's "Adventures on the Wheels of Steel" and the Sugarhill Gang's breakthrough hip-hop single, "Rapper's Delight", and it has been endlessly sampled since by many dance and hip-hop acts, as well as being the inspiration for Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust" and also Blondie's "Rapture" also for the bass line of Daft Punk "Around the World".
At the same time, Edwards and Rodgers composed, arranged, performed, and produced many influential disco and R&B records for both established artists and one-hit wonders, including Sister Sledge's albums We Are Family (1979) and Love Somebody Today (1980); Sheila B. and Devotion's "Spacer"; Diana Ross's 1980 album Diana, which included the hit singles "Upside Down", "I'm Coming Out" and "My Old Piano"; Carly Simon's "Why" (from 1982 soundtrack Soup For One); and Debbie Harry's debut solo album KooKoo.
Chic also helped introduce the world to an up-and-coming young vocalist named Luther Vandross, who sang on several of Chic's albums, and helped define the distinctive vocal style of Chic. That style he used on his big breakthrough, the disco band Change's debut album "The Glow of Love" in 1980.
1980s–1990s: Disbanding, other projects, a brief reunionIn the aftermath of the anti-disco backlash, the band struggled to obtain both airplay and sales, and in the early 1980s they broke up. Rodgers and Edwards produced records for a wide variety of artists together and separately. The Chic rhythm section of Rodgers, Edwards, and Thompson provided instrumental back-up for the hugely successful Diana album for Diana Ross in 1980, with Rodgers and Edwards producing. It yielded the number-one single "Upside Down" and the top ten hit "I'm Coming Out." "My Old Piano" was also a top ten single for Ross in the United Kingdom. Rodgers co-produced David Bowie's 1983 album Let's Dance and was also largely responsible for the breakthrough success of Madonna in 1984 with her Like a Virgin album, which again reunited Rodgers, Thompson, and Edwards, with keyboardist Rob Sabino and collaborators Jeff Bova and Jimmy Bralower in tow. In 1984, Rodgers was involved with Honeydrippers project and helped produce that band's only EP. Thompson and Edwards worked with the super group Power Station on its 1985 hit album, as well as Power Station lead singer Robert Palmer's solo smash Riptide that same year, both of which Edwards produced. In 1986, Rodgers produced the fourth album from Duran Duran, Notorious. Bernard Edwards later gave Duran Duran's bassist John Taylor the bass he'd played during on many of Chic's hits. Taylor had long been a huge Chic fan, his style greatly influenced by Edwards' playing.
After a 1989 birthday party where Rodgers, Edwards, Paul Shaffer, and Anton Fig played old Chic hits to rapturous response, Rodgers and Edwards organized a reunion of the old band. They recorded new material—a single, "Chic Mystique" (remixed by Masters at Work) and subsequent album Chic-Ism, both of which charted—and played live all over the world, to great audience and critical acclaim.
In 1996, Rodgers was honored as the Top Producer in the World in Billboard Magazine, and was named a JT Super Producer. That year, he performed with Bernard Edwards, Sister Sledge, Steve Winwood, Simon Le Bon, and Slash in a series of commemorative concerts in Japan, which provided a career retrospective. Unfortunately, his longtime musical partner Edwards died of pneumonia at age 43 during the trip on April 18, 1996. His final performance was recorded and released as Live at the Budokan. Chic continued to tour with new musicians.
Thompson died of kidney cancer on November 12, 2003, at age 48.
2000sChic has been nominated for inclusion in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame five times: 2003, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009, and is currently nominated again for 2011. Rodgers and Chic continue to perform to sold-out venues worldwide.
Influences and awardsChic influenced the vocal and music style of the Italian-American disco band Change, which had a string of hits in the early 1980s.
In addition to refining a relatively minimalist take on the disco sound, Chic helped to inspire other artists to forge their own sound. For example, The Sugarhill Gang used "Good Times" as the basis for its hit "Rapper's Delight", which helped launch the hip hop recorded music format as we know today. Later that year, Vaughn Mason and Crew sampled "Good Times" on its song "Bounce, Rock, Skate, Roll." "Good Times" was also used by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five on its hit "..On the Wheels of Steel," which was used in the end sequence of the first hip-hop movie, Wild Style, from 1982. Blondie's 1980 US number-one hit "Rapture" was not only influenced by "Good Times" but was a direct tribute to Chic, and lead singer Deborah Harry's 1981 debut solo album Koo Koo was produced by Edwards and Rodgers.
Chic was cited as an influence by the majority of successful bands to emerge from Great Britain in the 1980s. John Taylor, the bassist from Duran Duran claims the bass part of their top 10 single "Rio" was influenced by Edwards' work with Chic. Even Johnny Marr of The Smiths has cited the group as a formative influence. Rodgers guitar work has been so emulated as to become commonplace, and Edwards' lyrical bass is also much-cited in music circles, as is Thompson's steady and hard-hitting recorded drumwork. Queen got the inspiration for its hit single "Another One Bites the Dust" from Bernard Edwards' familiar bass guitar riff on "Good Times" after John Deacon met the band in The Power Station recording studio. (Source: "Everybody Dance: Chic and the Politics of Disco")
Chic's do-it-yourself attitude served as an uptown version of punk rock's fundamental tenets (while remaining upwardly mobile) and represented a new way for R&B acts to approach their own careers. (The group very quickly grabbed the production reins for its own records, wisely shielded themselves in business matters by forming an umbrella organization from which to administer their services, conceived and formulated their own image, and wrote their own material while holding tight to their publishing rights.)
On September 19, 2005, the group was honored at the Dance Music Hall of Fame ceremony in New York when they were inducted in three categories: 1) Artist Inductees, 2) Record Inductees for "Good Times," and 3) Producers Inductees, Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards.
Chic have been nominated for 2009 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Line upCore band:
- Bernard Edwards - vocals, bass
- Nile Rodgers - guitar
- Tony Thompson - drums
- Alfa Anderson, Luci Martin - lead vocals
- Marianne Carroll
- Valerie Haywood
- Cheryl Hong
- Karen Karlsrud
- Gene Orloff
- Vocals - Fonzi Thornton, Michele Cobbs, Ullanda McCullough, Luther Vandross, Jocelyn Brown, Sylver Logan Sharp
- Keyboards - Robert Sabino, Andy Schwartz, Raymond Jones, Nathaniel S. Hardy, Jr.
- Percussion - Sammy Figueroa
|Year||Title||Chart positions ||Certifications|
|1978||C'est Chic ||4||1||2|
|1980||Real People ||30||8||–|
|1981||Take It Off ||124||36||–|
|1982||Tongue in Chic ||173||47||–|
- Les Plus Grands Succès De Chic: Chic's Greatest Hits (1979, Atlantic) (US #88, US R&B #44, UK #30)
- Freak Out: The Greatest Hits of Chic and Sister Sledge (1988)
- Megachic: Best of Chic (1990)
- Dance, Dance, Dance: The Best of Chic (1991)
- The Best of Chic, Volume 2 (1992)
- Everybody Dance (1995)
- Chic Freak and More Treats (1996)
- Dance, Dance, Dance & Other Hits (1997)
- The Very Best of Chic & Sister Sledge (1999)
- The Very Best of Chic (2000)
- Good Times: The Very Best of the Hits & the Remixes (Chic & Sister Sledge) (2005)
- The Definitive Groove Collection (2006)
|Year||Title||Chart positions ||Album|
|U.S.||U.S. R&B||U.S. Dance||U.S. A/C||U.K.|
|1977||"Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)"||6||6||1||–||6||Chic|
|1978||"Le Freak"||1||1||1||48||7||C'est Chic|
|"I Want Your Love"||7||5||9||4|
|"My Forbidden Lover"||43||33||–||15|
|"My Feet Keep Dancing"||101||42||–||21|
|1980||"Rebels Are We"||61||8||29||–||–||Real People|
|"Real People" / "Chip off the Old Block"||79||51||–||–|
|1981||"Stage Fright"||105||34||–||–||–||Take It Off|
|1982||"Soup for One"||80||14||–||–||–||Soup for One|
|"Hangin'"||–||48||–||–||64||Tongue in Chic|
|1983||"Give Me the Lovin'"||–||57||–||–||–||Believer|
|1984||"Chic Cheer (1984 Mix)"||–||–||–||–||81||—|
|1987||"Jack Le Freak"||–||–||15||–||19|
|1990||"MegaChic - Chic Medley"||–||–||–||–||58|
Artists produced by Chic
|Year||Artist||Title||Chart positions ||Certifications|
|1978||Norma Jean Wright||Norma Jean ||–||–||–|
|1979||Sister Sledge||We Are Family ||3||1||7|
|1980||Sheila & B. Devotion||King of the World ||–||–||–|
|Sister Sledge||Love Somebody Today ||31||7||–|
|Diana Ross||Diana ||2||1||12|
|1981||Debbie Harry||Koo Koo ||28||–||6|
|Johnny Mathis||I Love My Lady ||–||–||–|
|1982||Fonzi Thornton||Untitled ||–||–||–|
|Various Artists (soundtrack album)||Soup for One ||168||42||–|
|Year||Artist||Title||Chart positions ||Album|
|U.S.||U.S. R&B||U.S. Dance||U.S. A/C||U.K.|
|1978||Norma Jean Wright||"Saturday"||–||15||10||–||–||Norma Jean|
|1979||Sister Sledge||"He's The Greatest Dancer"||9||1||1||–||6||We Are Family|
|"We Are Family"||2||1||30||7|
|"Lost in Music"||44||35||–||–||17|
|Norma Jean Wright||"High Society"||–||19||92||–||–||—|
|1980||Sheila & B. Devotion||"Spacer"||–||28||44||–||18||King of the World|
|Sister Sledge||"Got to Love Somebody Today"||64||6||34||–||34||Love Somebody Today|
|"Reach Your Peak"||101||21||–||–|
|"Let's Go on Vacation"||–||63||–||–||–|
|Diana Ross||"Upside Down"||1||1||1||18||2||Diana|
|"I'm Coming Out"||5||5||–||13|
|1981||Debbie Harry||"Backfired"||43||71||29||–||32||Koo Koo|
|"The Jam Was Moving"||82||–||–||–||–|
|1982||Carly Simon||"Why"||74||–||–||–||10<><>||Soup For One<><> >>|