Chic

Chic

Those who choose to write off Chic as simply "another disco group" really miss the point. While the group's creative and commercial peak was indeed during the disco-dominated years of 1978-1980, Chic arguably served as the bridge from the James Brown/Sly Stone pioneering funk of the 60s and early 70s to the electronic dance/funk that came to dominate the mid-80s.

The formation of Chic was a near-perfect amalgamation of disparate talents. Nile Rodgers was a jazz-trained, fusion-loving guitarist who was anything but an R&B man growing up. After landing a stint on the touring show for Sesame Street, show member Loretta Long (Susan) introduced him to many of the New York music leaders, and soon he was playing at the famed Apollo Theater. There he met bassist extraordinaire Bernard Edwards, who was already a rising funk star player. The two teamed up with noted session drummer Tony Thompson and began amassing a local following. Called the Big Apple Band, they were innovating and pushing the boundaries of funk, adding elements of glam rock and the emerging dance music scene. Friend Luther Vandross (who also began working on Sesame Street) introduced them to rising singers Norma-Jean Wright and Alfa Anderson, and the foundation of a future supergroup was formed.

A twist of fate happened when orchestra leader Walter Murphy hit the top of the charts with the early disco instrumental "A Fifth of Beethoven," and decided to call his group the Big Apple Band. Suddenly Rodgers and Edwards needed a new name, and the moniker Chic became an appropriate description of what they were becoming. Focused a sophisticated sound, that included lush elements of The Sound of Philadelphia (the group had worked with legendary Philly producer Thom Bell on the New York City hit "I'm Doin' Fine) and the four-on-the-floor made popular by TSOP, Chic self-released a monster 1978 club hit "Dance Dance Dance (Yowsah)." The tight arrangements reined in the powerful voices of Wright and Anderson (and later Luci Martin), and a new style of stripped down, funky feel, fronted by Edwards' jangling guitar and Edwards' fat bass lines, was born. That sound would influence popular music for the next three decades.

The group moved to the forefront of the disco movement in 1979 with perhaps that genre's biggest song, "Le Freak." Chic scored another big hit that year with the mid-tempo "I Want Your Love," then in 1980 released "Good Times," a monumental dance cut and one of the most sampled and copied cuts of the era (including most notably Queen's take on it with "Another One Bites the Dust" and The Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight").

The group's slide was as quick as its ascension, and, despite a few memorable early 80s singles such as "Rebels Are We" and "Stage Fright," Chic was nonexistent by 1984, unfairly done in by the disco backlash. However Rodgers and Edwards' influence continued stronger than ever. Rodgers arguably became the decade's most prolific producer, and his work with Diana Ross ("Upside Down"), Madonna ("Like a Virgin") and David Bowie ("Let's Dance") was huge. Edwards went on to produce Robert Palmer ("Addicted to Love") and the supergroup Power Station (which included former Chic drummer Thompson).

Chic regrouped briefly in the early 90s, but the reunion ended tragically with the sudden death of Edwards. Thompson also died at an early age, succumbing to cancer in 2003. Rodgers has occasionally recreated the group (with new members) from time to time for limited tours, and even a solid 2018 album. He also continued to be an important collaborator through the first two decades of the 20th century, including on the #1 Daft Punk hit, "Get Lucky," which sounded like a Chic release of thirty years earlier. Rodgers has also formed the We Are Family Foundation, which is designed to "create and support programs that inspire and educate individuals of all ages about diversity, understanding, respect and multiculturalism; and to support those who are victims of intolerance."

By Chris Rizik

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