Nile Rodgers and his disco group Chic have been on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ballot 11 times. While both Rodgers and Chic have yet to be officially inducted, the guitarist is being honored at this year’s ceremony with Award for Musical Excellence, which is not selected by the voters. Pharrell Williams presented him with the prestigious honor.
Back in December, Rodgers felt “bittersweet” about being presented with the award separate from Chic and not as an official Rock Hall inductee. “I’m a little perplexed because even though I’m quite flattered that they believed that I was worthy, my band Chic didn’t win,” he told Rolling Stone. “The only reason why I met Bowie and Madonna and Duran Duran and INXS is because they all loved Chic.”
Read Rodgers’ full speech at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center below.
So I’m a New Yorker. I was born not very far away from where we’re standing now. It’s funny, I was saying to Pharrell almost everybody on this stage, as a matter of fact almost everybody who’s been in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I’ve worked with. [Applause]
I started out; I was just a little kid on the side of my bed just playing guitar hoping to get one hit record. Yo, it’s 3 billion dollars now. [Applause] Yeah, they just told me a couple of months ago that I’ve sold over 300 million albums and 75 million singles. I just wanted to have one hit record.
My life has been so amazing. When I met this gentleman named Bernard Edwards, a bass player who started out as a guitar player who had this interesting style of playing and he told me about chucking and he just said, “Man, you need to change your shit up. You got all this jazz knowledge but if you learn how to play this thing, we could change music.” I didn’t believe him until this young kid plugged into my amp that was our opening act and he sounded 10 times better than me but I knew that harmonically I had more knowledge than he did.
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All of a sudden, I said OK, cool. I went and I traded my guitar, my expensive big, fat jazz guitar for this little Fender Stratocaster that was like a hundred and seventy-something bucks and it was ugly because I hate solid body sunburst guitars. So, I adored Hendrix; so I went home and I painted it white myself. That same white paint job is the same paint job I did 40 years ago when we were the opening act for the Jackson 5.
From that journey from just being a backup guy I have [pauses; applause] When people work with me, they think that I’m the boss. But believe me, every record I do I join the band. I try and make every artist believe that all I have is their best interest at heart. I remember saying to Madonna, when we finish this record it’s going to say MADONNA [whispers] produced by Nile Rodgers. My name doesn’t mean shit; it’s going to be this big.
This award, which is amazing to me, is really because of all the people that have allowed me to come into their lives and just join their band. Be it Mick Jagger, be it Madonna, be it Duran Duran, be it Daft Punk, be it Pharrell Williams, be it Diana Ross, be it Sister Sledge. I mean it just goes on and on and on. Thank you all.