“Upside Down” And “Like A Virgin”: 11 Songs We Always Hear That We Didn’t Realize Nile Rodgers Wrote And Produced
Yes, I’m super late (sorry to the die-hard Chic fans who already knew all this info). Many people got acquainted with the brilliance of Nile Rodgers after his work on the critically acclaimed and Album of the Year Grammy Award-winning album, Random Access Memories by Daft Punk “Get Lucky” and “Lose Yourself to Dance” were everybody’s jams last year). But really, the guitarist, producer and songwriter has been killing the game since 1970. Once a member of Chic, Rodgers has written and produced for some huge performers, including Diana Ross, Madonna, David Bowie, Duran Duran, Sister Sledge and more. Here are a few of the old-school cuts I’ve always enjoyed and heard on the radio, but hadn’t realized (until now) that Rodgers was behind.
“Upside Down” by Diana Ross
“Upside down you’re turning me!” One of Diana Ross’ biggest hits and #62 on Billboard’s list of the “Greatest Songs of All Time,” Rodgers wrote and produced the song with Chic member Bernard Edwards. They said Ross was the first major artist they worked with, and they worked very hard to impress her. Clearly they did, and impressed everyone else in the process.
“He’s The Greatest Dancer” by Sister Sledge
Another gem by Rodgers and Edwards, this Sister Sledge jam wasn’t the easiest to put together. According to Rodgers, the women felt the song’s lyrics made them seem promiscuous, particularly the line, “My crème de la crème please take me home.” Edwards and Rodgers went back and forth with the ladies, who wanted to change the song’s words, but eventually they went with the flow and had an international hit on their hands.
“We Are Family” by Sister Sledge
Before Rodgers and Edwards helped Sister Sledge get their disco on with “He’s The Greatest Dancer,” the first song they wrote for the ladies was the classic “We Are Family.” Kathy Sledge, who sang lead on the song about the group’s sisterhood, knocked out her recording session for the track in one single take! Now that’s talent.
“Le Freak” by Chic
While with Chic, Rodgers and Edwards wrote what would go on to be Atlantic Records’ most successful song EVER. Not only that, it would be the first song to go number one on the Billboard charts a whopping three different times.
“Everybody Dance” by Chic
This particular track, again written by writing duo Rodgers and Edwards, was written before the success of “Le Freak,” but it still did very well on the charts. It peaked at #28 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #12 on the Billboard R&B singles charts.
“Love Shack” by The B-52s
Yes, Nile Rodgers worked with just about everybody, including pop-rock band the B-52s. Rodgers (this time without Bernard Edwards), produced the hit song alongside Don Was back in 1989. The song was the B-52s’ biggest hit, peaking at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100.
“Material Girl” by Madonna
One of a few times that Madonna would collaborate with Nile Rodgers, he produced this classic hit. Even though Madge didn’t write the song or have anything to do with its production aside from singing, she once said that it was a song that she really connected to because it described the lifestyle she was living: “I’m very career-oriented. You are attracted to people who are ambitious that way, too, like in the song ‘Material Girl’. You are attracted to men who have material things because that’s what pays the rents and buys you furs. That’s the security. That lasts longer than emotions.”
“Good Times” by Chic
Another classic by Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, “Good Times” became the band’s second number one hit, and of course, went on to be one of the most sampled songs in the history of music (spawning such hits as “Rapper’s Delight” and “Another One Bites The Dust”).
“Let’s Dance” by David Bowie
Niles Rodgers knows a hit when he hears one, and that’s exactly what he gave David Bowie when he produced “Let’s Dance.” The track off of the album of the same name became one of Bowie’s biggest hits ever, and was another heavily sampled joint (“Been Around The World” anyone?).
“Like A Virgin” by Madonna
It’s the song that made Madonna a superstar! Nile Rodgers produced it, and admitted that while they were in the process of putting the song together, he thought the lyric “Like a Virgin” was kind of crap-tastic. Also, Madonna didn’t like the song as a whole. But they both came to their senses and the song became the first of her many number one hits.
“I’m Coming Out” by Diana Ross
The story behind the creation of “I’m Coming Out” is quite interesting. As it goes, Rodgers spotted a few different drag queens dressed as Ross at a club and was inspired to write the song, which Ross also took gravitated to because she was leaving Motown at the time. It peaked at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts.