Nile Rodgers on How Little Richard, Jazz and Museums Shaped David Bowie
Ever since linking up with Tony Visconti on his 1969 eponymous second album, David Bowie has employed a string of innovative and high-profile producers to help him craft his indelible sound. But the musician found his best-selling success thanks to Chic mastermind Nile Rodgers, who co-produced 1983’s disco-rock landmark Let’s Dance with Bowie. Fueled by the title track and “Modern Love,” the album would go on to sell nearly 11 million copies worldwide and “Let’s Dance” would earn Bowie one of only two Number One singles on the Billboard 200.
Rodgers would link again with the singer for 1993’s Black Tie, White Noise, but the two had a friendship that went back decades. Following Bowie’s death, Rodgers spoke to Rolling Stone about the inimitable musician.
I was introduced to David Bowie’s work in the most amazing, romantic way. I was down in Miami Beach around 1975 and they had a nude beach down there. I met a girl who was a photographer in the club that I was working at, and she said, “Let’s drop acid and spend the night naked on the beach.” I couldn’t say no, so we went on the beach and she had a tape recorder and we just listened to Bowie all night long. I had never really heard his music until then except for the occasional big records you’d hear, but it was amazing.
I met him totally by accident, and from the moment we met, we couldn’t stop talking to each other. I was with Billy Idol in 1982 and we walked into [New York club] the Continental. He saw David and went, “Bloody hell, that’s David fucking Bow…” and barfed and wiped his mouth with his sleeve. By that time, I had already gone over to David because I didn’t barf. [Laughs] And I was feeling pretty good and it was the first time I had ever seen David Bowie in real life.
I was at a pretty down moment in my life, but still feeling okay because I could still play and I was making a lot of money and doing a lot of partying. He was at this brand new club where he was the straight-looking guy and we were all the freaky-looking people. It was ridiculous. This was the beginning of club kids and the whole bit and David was just this sort of metrosexual guy in a suit. [Laughs] We were like, “Who is this?” No one recognized him.
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