Exclusive: Nile Rodgers and The Temptations’ Otis Williams Talk Black Music’s Revolution
In Episode Three of Hulu’s The 1619 Project, narrator and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones argues that Black Americans have, and still do, create and transform America’s musical landscape. In between a narrative arc examining the history of Black participation in music, the docuseries also speaks to several musical legends about their most famous works and processes. The 1619 Project shared several first look photos and two exclusive clips from its music episode with Rolling Stone — which you can watch below.
Based on the 2019 essay collection published in The New York Times Magazine, The 1619 Project reforms the original magazine collection into a new show combining history, reporting, art and Hannah-Jones’ personal reflections on Black America — all in an effort to show generations of Americans a history they may have missed out on.
“When I started to make disco music as we called it, dance music, it was the first time that I was able to organize more effectively than I could do in the [Black Panther] party,” Nile Rodgers tells Hannah-Jones, recalling the creation of one of his band Chic’s earliest hits, “Everybody Dance,” and their introduction to legend Grace Jones.
In September 2022, on his 70th birthday, Rodgers told Rolling Stone that the creation of “Everybody Dance” was inspired by a lesson from his beloved jazz tutor Ted Dubar.
“I thought as artists, what do you want to do? I want to touch people that I don’t know,” he said at the time. “I want people that I will never, ever meet to know that in my soul, I care about them. And in my soul, I want you to understand that I’m doing music to try and make you feel good. Two weeks later, I wrote ‘Everybody Dance.’”
Hannah-Jones also sat down with baritone Otis Williams, the last surviving original member of iconic Motown group The Temptations. In 2017, Williams, who was still performing with The Temptations, told Rolling Stone he was committed to keeping the group alive.
“I like finding talent, I like writing songs, I like production, I like the behind-the-scenes — that’s what my forte will always be,” Williams said. “As everybody knows about myself, I am the glue. If I’m going to glue something together, I want it to be worth something and make a profound statement.”
In the exclusive 1619 Project clip, Williams says he was first inspired to be a musician while watching a rock and roll show at the Fox Theatre in St. Louis, Missouri. His parents didn’t even know he was there.
“They came looking for me!” he laughs.
You can hear Williams’ and Rodgers’ full interviews, including more personal stories about their roles in American music legend, when Episode Three of The 1619 Project premieres Feb. 2 on Hulu.