Nile Rodgers - The Hitmaker and Me
Posted on the 6th Jun 2013 in the category sport

One of the great things of being a journalist is you can get to interview incredible people amid the countless celebrities hawking their wares.

I’ve been lucky to meet some heroes including Paul McGrath who was an absolute joy and some others who turned out to be god-awful human beings like Freddie Flintoff.

Whenever I’m on a press trip the conversation will usually turn to which celebrities we have interviewed over the years.

So “which is the best celebrity you’ve ever interviewed?” is a question I am often asked and one name always comes quickly to mind - Nile Rodgers.

It was only a phone interview (best face to face celebrity of interviewed is Michael Aspel, he could have run the world if he wanted) but speaking to Nile was an absolute joy.

I was working for the Great Barr Observer and Nile was coming to the NEC on a nostalgia tour so when I was offered interview opportunities I requested to chat to the genius hitmaker.

I commendered the boss’ office as his was the only phone that could make international calls and after doing some research on the great man I made the call.

Now, you have to remember a man like Nile has to do about 20 of these calls in a row and I was the last one so I thought he might be flagging.

But no, on comes this ray of sunshine down the phone and we had a great chat, as soon as I said I was from Birmingham he said: “No way my friends are from there - Stevie Winwood and Duran Duran.”

So I told him Stevie Winwood went to my school - Great Barr Comp and we were off. He was a great interviewee who knew his place in music “Everyone I produced it was either their first or biggest album - Madonna, Bowie” and then “and usually whoever has sampled my music it has been their biggest hit too.”

Now I’ve always loved Nile Rodgers, to start with it was from him being a talking head on music shows when I was a kid. He’d usually be there with his funky dreads talking sense in front of a mansion but I looked at the music he created, and the careers he made it is incredible.

Chic of course, they basically changed music in the early to mid 70s, he was behind Rose Royce biggest hits and of course Diana Ross’ comeback tracks including Upside Down.

He was giving me a rundown of all his experiences of disco and what it was like to produce music which was loved around the world at the same time.

At this point of the interview I was walking on air but then asked the world’s stupidist question.

The story goes that when he and his brilliant mate Bernard were turned away on Studio 54 on New Year’s Eve and went back home and wrote “Fuck Off” which morphed into Le Freak.

I stupidly asked him: “Did you ever get in Studio 54?”

This to a fella who had a residency in their toilet!

There was silence and then: “Are you serious? Of course I did.”

So I quickly asked another question and he was off talking about disco and feelgood music and I did not feel too much of an idiot but I got the courage up to ask the Bowie question.

Though everyone knows David Bowie (another one of my heroes) stiffed him when his biggest selling album came out, produced by Nile, but without proper credit to him, when I asked him about it he was not bitter and came across all the better for it.

As the interview came to an end I asked him what he was doing for the rest of the day.

He said: “I’m driving through upstate New York for a few hours in my car, so actually I’ve got a bit of time, can I ask you a few questions about yourself!.”

That’s multimillionaire music genius Nile Rodgers asking me, a rookie scumbag reporter from Perry Barr about my life.

So I put my feet on the boss’ desk and had a great chinwag. I gave him a potted history of Birmingham and its music and when I asked what car he was driving he said: “A custom made Banana coloured Range Rover.”

“NO WAY!” I said: “My mate works on the track meking them.....”

Well needless the say the boss wanted his office back and I bade the wonderful human being goodbye and I’ve never spoken to him since, except on Twitter @nilerodgers.

Lately everyone seems to be jumping on the Nile Rodgers bandwagon, the BBC4 documentary The Hitmaker skimmed the surface of the body of work Nile has either played on, produced, being sampled on or inspired.

Basically if you have ever danced there is a good chance you have danced to a Nile Rodgers track. And that includes if you are dancing this summer to the latest music because he is featured on Daft Punk’s latest tune.

He is performing in Birmingham and the Mostly Jazz Festival in Moseley on Sunday, July 7 so get your tickets quick.

And tonight The Steve Zacharanda Radio Show is doing a Nile and Disco theme show!

Who knows he might tune into www.scratchradio.co.uk at 8pm UK time.


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