Nile Rodgers on Lady Gaga’s Grammy Bowie Tribute: ‘It Was All About Art’
Then after “Disco Sucks,” I had to reevaluate my career and I didn’t get any success until Bowie in 1982. Now that sounds really corny, but when you’re young, and you have no success for two years after everything you had done was successful, it feels like, “Oh, my God, my life is over!” Then the next thing you know, I did “Let’s Dance” and then ran through a string of Number Ones. I had Duran Duran right after that; I had Like a Virgin, the biggest album of my life right after that.
Going in, how did you feel about working with Lady Gaga?
I’ve known Gaga personally for a little over a year now, and our very first two meetings were extraordinary. I don’t like to be corny and say that it was so all about art, but man, it was all about art. We were just mesmerized by each other, and I wound up working with her the very next day after meeting her on the same song she was nominated for. But this experience with her was … I just don’t know how to explain it. I’ve never seen anyone in my life, and I’ve been doing this for a long time, I’ve never seen any one artist so committed to six minutes of music. That’s all we did! We were only onstage for six minutes. Right up until they said, “3-2-1,” she was pumping us up, giving us instructions: “C’mon, guys, this is for David,” blah, blah, blah. She was giving us acting lessons like, “Think of this as the most important person you’ve ever respected in your whole life. Who is that person? Picture that person.” It was incredible.
Can you talk about what your conversations were like before the performance as you were putting the whole thing together?
Basically what she wanted to do was to do his career chronologically. Now, we knew that we had time constraints because … it’s not fair to the other artists performing to suck all the air out of the room and take up so much time. She had started out with 17 songs and as the music director, I had to fine-tune that down to nine and say, “Gaga, this is how we should do the nine. This is a way that we could actually do sort of mash-ups.” I don’t know if you heard this, but we took the bass line to “Under Pressure” and used that to intro into “Let’s Dance.” It was very reminiscent of when we did the Daft Punk appearance two years ago, how they were able to mix up a lot of their songs into the main song that we were there to play, which was “Get Lucky.”
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