As you may have seen from my last post, I’m still on a high from the concert my dear friend Shawn and I saw last week (4.12.2016) at New York’s Barclays Center, Duran Duran with Chic featuring Nile Rodgers. It was truly one of THE best shows I’ve ever seen. And while seeing Duran Duran perform was worth the 34-year wait, seeing Chic and Nile perform was more than worth the wait too.
Chic was co-formed 40 years ago by Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards right in New York (Nile had mentioned at the show that the first song he wrote, “Everybody Dance,” was written not far from the venue in Brooklyn).
In the quick 2-year period between 1977 and 1979, at the height of the disco craze, Chic picked up 5 Top 40 hits on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 – “Everybody Dance” stopped at No. 38, while the remaining 4 Top 40 hits reached the Top 10: “Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)” (No. 6, 1977), “Le Freak” (No. 1, 6 weeks, 1978 /1979), “I Want Your Love” (No. 7, 1979) and today’s “song of the day,” “Good Times.”
Chic released “Good Times” in June 1979 (from the album, RISQUÉ) and Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards prolly had no idea how important this song would be in the realm of music history. Or, maybe they did. The song’s lyrics were largely based on the 1929 song, “Happy Days Are Here Again” by Milton Ager (who had just passed away a month before the song’s release, and who was inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame that year).
“Good Times” didn’t take long to debut on the Hot 100, debuting the same month it was released, and just in time for Summer. It had reached the Top 10 in just 6 weeks, and spent its lone week at No. 1 in August 1979. “Good Times” might have stayed on top longer had it not been for the huge chart run for The Knack’s “My Sharona,” which replaced “Good Times” at No. 1 and became the biggest song of 1979. (After spending a week at No. 1, “Good Times” was situated at No. 2 behind “My Sharona” for 3 weeks.) “Good Times” ended up at No. 20 for all of 1979.
On other BILLBOARD charts, “Good Times” spent 6 weeks at No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s R&B chart, and was the No. 1 R&B single for 1979. Over on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart, “Good Times” (along with 2 other songs from RISQUÉ – “My Forbidden Lover” and “My Feet Keep Dancing”) reached No. 3.
The good times for “Good Times” wasn’t limited to the U.S. – it reached No. 5 in the U.K. and Canada, No. 8 in New Zealand, and was a Top 40 hit in at least 4 other countries.
A month after “Good Times” hit No. 1 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, a Hip Hop group out of Englewood, New Jersey, The Sugarhill Gang, released “Rapper’s Delight,” a song that sampled “Good Times” and used it as the music backdrop behind their rapping. “Rapper’s Delight” wasn’t the first song to incorporate rapping (that distinction would go to the The Fatback Band’s song released a few months before “Rapper’s Delight,” “King Tim III (Personality Jock)”), but it was the song that brought Rap and Hip Hop into the music mainstream, and in 2011, it was preserved into the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress, which includes songs that are “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” And The Sugarhill Gang have Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards to thank for that, and I’m sure they have many times over… At the Barclays show, Nile Rodgers even did a bit of the opening rap from “Rapper’s Delight” (much to the delight of me, Shawn and everyone in attendance).
Chic would not hit the Top 40 again after “Good Times,” though they still continue to make music, and June 2015, even scored their first No. 1 BILLBOARD Dance hit in more than 20 years with “I’ll Be There,” from the forthcoming album, IT’S ABOUT TIME, their first studio album since 1992.
Bernard Edwards, bassist and vocalist for Chic, sadly died of pneumonia after a performance in Tokyo this week in 1996. The amazing Tony Thompson, Chic’s drummer and also a well-known session drummer, was one-quarter of the 1985 “supergroup” The Power Station, and he tragically passed away in 2003 from kidney cancer just before turning 49, and two months after the passing of another one-quarter of The Power Station, Robert Palmer.
Nile Rodgers – at 63 years old and a cancer survivor – was so amazing to watch; so much energy and positivity coming out of that talented, brilliant man. Since Chic had 5 Top 40 hits, all memorable, they filled the rest of the hour they performed with a medley of songs written and / or produced by Nile, including “I’m Coming Out” and “Upside Down” by Diana Ross, and “He’s The Greatest Dancer” and “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge.
Then came a sensational surprise, Chic-style. I had hoped Nile and Chic would play it, but I wasn’t sure. The song I’m talking about is “Let’s Dance” by David Bowie. Nile Rodgers had said that, after the disco backlash in the early 80s, no one wanted to work with him. David Bowie was the first recording artist to reach out to him and asked Nile to work with him. And the result was the biggest hit of David Bowie’s career.
The rest, as they say, is history. Nile Rodgers went on to work with so many artists over the decades, including Duran Duran (truly a concert pairing of epic proportions), Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes, INXS, Madonna, Mick Jagger, Thompson Twins, Laurie Anderson, Grace Jones, Depeche Mode, The B-52’s, and in 2009, with a couple of guys from Paris called Daft Punk.
Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” single got lucky with Nile Rodgers (and Pharrell Williams too), spent 5 weeks at No. 2 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, has become one of the biggest-selling digital singles of all-time (more than 9 million copies downloaded), won 2 Grammy Awards, and reached No. 1 in more than 30 countries. (Nile and Chic also performed this, Chic-style, at the Barclays show).
Like Daft Punk, over the years, the music of Chic has inspired many recording artists, from Queen (“Another One Bites The Dust”), Debbie Harry (who worked with Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers on 1981’s KOO KOO album), and even The Smiths’ Johnny Marr.
Chic has been nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 10 times, more than any other recording act, and most recently, for the 2016 class. I’m hoping that maybe someone from the Rock Hall saw the performance of Chic featuring Nile Rodgers at the Barclays show or on another part of the tour, because not only is Chic about those “Good Times,” they’re a heluva talented band, too. I know I’ll be thinking about those “Good Times” from the show for a long time to come.