5 Reasons Chic Should Be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Compiling the five reasons Chic should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame begins with understanding their sweeping impact. After all, your average R&B band might be largely unheard by those who steadfastly follow rock. Chic, however, isn't your average R&B band. Their once-ubiquitous '70s-era dance hits opened the door for a new era of influence, as Nile Rodgers, Bernard Edwards and Tony Thompson – Chic's three principal members – began work in the '80s as producers, sidemen and inspirational resources for a variety of rockers. Find out more about these over overlooked contributions as we count down the five reasons Chic should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ...
Forget the suits; Chic were scrappy. They once shopped a demo to Atlantic even though they were under contract elsewhere, promising a signature if the label could get a song out before Billboard's annual disco convention. Later on, Bernard Edwards boldly purchased not one but two pricy cars at a Mercedes dealership on Park Avenue after being greeted by a snobbish salesman who questioned their ability to pay for one. Then there was the breakout hit "Le Freak," which originally had a much different lyric inspired by a night when they were denied entry by a pretentious doorman at New York's famed Studio 54. Rodgers and Edwards went home and wrote a song with the line, "aahhhh, f--- off!" What's more rock and roll than that? Only later was it changed to "freak out," opening the door for wide-spread radio exposure as the song became a chart-topping smash.
Though Chic's music was driven by some hip-wagging grooves, Chic actually emerged from the ashes of a jazz-fusion group – long before early singles like "Dance Dance Dance" and "Everybody Dance" helped solidify their next-era disco persona. As such, they approached things from a muso's standpoint. Rodgers has said, for instance, that each song had its own "Deep Hidden Meaning." The DHM for "Le Freak," for instance, actually wasn't the Studio 54 story, but that there was a dance going around at that point called the Freak; Chic was hoping the song would be their version of "The Twist."
Chic refused to list individual credits for songs, preferring to be thought of as a musical whole, and they dressed in business suits during a time when R&B groups were expressing themselves in ever-more-flamboyant fashion. Rodgers has said that urbane style – from the clothes to the music to the look and feel of the album covers – was drawn from Roxy Music, while their desire to remain part of a collective was based on Kiss' early anonymity. They then claimed a legacy of their own via a canny blend of "Euro-influenced R&B that also still passed the smell test of my jazz-police friends," as Rodgers wrote in his memoir, Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco, and Destiny.
Stevie Ray Vaughan was a well-respected regional star who'd just made an initial splash at the Montreux Jazz Festival when he became a key contributor on Let's Dance, David Bowie's Rodgers-produced 1983 comeback album. Bowie met him after the festival, and paved the way for a celebrated collaboration with Rodgers that produced three straight Top 5 hits – including the chart-topping title track. (Fellow Chic alum Tony Thompson also appeared on Let's Dance.) Later, Rodgers produced Family Style, a first-ever collaboration between Vaughan and his brother Jimmie that was released just a month after the guitarist was killed in a 1990 helicopter accident.
Everybody has been around Chic's music, whether you know it or not. That's how pervasive their presence was across the radio dial, long after the band's glitzy '70s sound supposedly became passe. In the following decade, they simply began a second career behind the scenes, keeping that core Chic aesthetic alive. Rodgers also co-produced a massive comeback album for the B-52's, and collaborated with Depeche Mode, INXS, Mick Jagger, Ric Ocasek of the Cars, Daft Punk and – in a nod to their past – Bryan Ferry of Roxy Music. Edwards worked with Robert Palmer (initially with Tony Thompson as members of the Power Station), Debbie Harry of Blondie fame (with Rodgers), Joe Cocker and Rod Stewart. And who can forget how the baseline from "Good Times" later informed Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust"?