Known as ‘the Hitmaker’, one 1959 Fender Stratocaster guitar is believed to have been played on over $2 billion dollars worth of hits.

Its owner is Nile Rodgers, a man who’s had a greater impact on the last 50 years of popular music than almost any other artist. Not content with creating some of disco’s most enduring hits with Chic, he played a key role in classic recordings from the likes of David Bowie, Madonna and Daft Punk.

After a musical education that saw him jam with Jimi Hendrix and tour the US as guitarist in Sesame Street’s live roadshow, he formed Chic with musical partner Bernard Edwards. Inspired by the anonymity of Kiss and the style of Roxy Music, they took funk, jazz and soul influences and turned them into the definitive disco sound.

At the core of Rodgers’ success is his ‘DHM’ philosophy. Speaking in his 2011 autobiography ‘Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco and Destiny’, he explained: “we (Edwards and Rodgers) had serendipitously created a production technique that would be the foundation for every project we’d do until our last breath.

“We called it DHM, or Deep Hidden meaning. Our golden rule was that all our songs had to have this ingredient. In short, it meant understanding the song’s DNA and seeing it from many angles. Art is subjective, but if we knew what we were talking about, then we could relay it to others in various disguises while maintaining its essential truth.”

To celebrate the 70-year-old being recognised with a Lifetime Achievement award at this weekend’s Grammys, we’ve put together 10 songs and five bonus tracks that tell the story of an extraordinarily influential musician.


(Chic, 1977)

While Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah) was the first single Chic released, Everybody Dance was the first song they wrote and represented instant proof of their genius.

Rodgers deliberately chose its “insanely simple” lyrical hook to complement a complex arrangement, featuring a sublime Edwards bassline that Rodgers insisted “only a handful of bassists on earth could play”.

CHIC - LE FREAK (C’est Chic, 1978)

On New Year’s Eve in 1977, Grace Jones invited Chic to New York’s famous Studio 54 nightclub, but they were turned away by the doormen.

After slinking away to a friend’s apartment and drowning their sorrows, a frustrated Rodgers began playing a riff and singing the words he’d been told by one of the doormen: “f*** off”.

With radio play in mind, ‘f*** off’ became ‘freak out’, and that Studio 54 knockback had inspired a disco anthem, propelled by Rodgers’ distinctive, choppy, funky guitar style known as ‘chucking’.

As he put it in his autobiography: “by

not getting what we wanted, we got more than we ever imagined.”

CHIC - GOOD TIMES (Risqué, 1979)

Not content with creating the sound that defined disco, Chic were also pivotal in the rise of hip hop.

Edwards’ famous Good Times bassline would be sampled to great effect by the Sugarhill Gang on Rapper’s Delight, and inspire such classics as Rapture by

Blondie, New Sensation by INXS and Queen’s Another One Bites The



As acknowledged by Rodgers, Roxy Music were a major influence on Chic in terms of their sound and visual presentation.

Decades later, Roxy Music frontman Bryan Ferry told the BBC that We Are Family was “the best record you could ever put on to get people dancing”.


Having enjoyed huge success as part of the Supremes, the pinnacle of Ross’ solo career came in 1980 thanks to Rodgers and Edwards. The pair adapted their approach to fit Ross’ reputation. Rodgers explains in his autobiography: “we included excessively polysyllabic words like ‘instinctively’ and ‘respectfully’ in the lyrics, because we wanted to utilise Diana’s sophistication to achieve a higher level of musicality.”

Incredibly, both Ross and Motown were disappointed with the finished album, but by the time it went six times platinum those doubts had long been dispelled.


(Let’s Dance, 1983)

When Bowie enlisted Rodgers as co-producer, his mission statement was clear: “Nile, darling. I’d like you to do what you do best. I want you to make hits.” Topping the charts in 13 countries and becoming Bowie’s biggest single to date, the album’s title track achieved that mission and then some.


(Like a Virgin, 1984)

Despite frequent disagreements during the recording of her vocal, Rodgers and Madonna struck gold and delivered the singer’s first ever number one single.

One of the decade’s most joyful pop moments, the album which shared its

name became the biggest hit of Rodgers’ career.


(Cosmic Thing, 1989)

Stuffed with hooks and handclaps, this Rodgers production saw Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson on joint vocal duties.

Their performances were rewarded with a Grammy nomination, as well as a US number three hit for the cult new wave band.

DAFT PUNK - GET LUCKY (Random Access Memories, 2013)

Look past Limmy’s ‘sound of the summer’ meme and the song’s decade of wedding-band ubiquity, and cast your mind back to the first time you heard this. There’s a reason Get Lucky became the biggest hit of Daft Punk’s career.

As one of his generation’s foremost producers, Pharrell Wiliams was clearly in Rodgers’ lineage, and the former’s vocals mixed perfectly with the latter’s guitar over an irresistible beat from the robots.


(Renaissance, 2022)

Beyoncé’s seventh solo album was the most dance-oriented of her career, and so it’s fitting that one of its highlights should be co-written by a man who has done as much as anyone to perfect and popularise dance music.



Chic’s lead vocalist left the group in 1978, but Rodgers and Edwards produced her only studio album later that year. It’s doubtful they would have envisaged a version of this infectious paean to the weekend being used 40 years later as the theme song for Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway.


Every choice on this list comes at the expense of several other timeless recordings that just failed to make the cut.

We Are Family and the anthemic Lost In Music are undeniable, but the likes of He’s the Greatest Dancer, Somebody Loves Me and Thinking of You would all have been justified selections from Chic’s work with Sister Sledge.

SHEILA - SPACER (King of the World, 1980)

Chic wrote and produced this slice of propulsive disco, which featured French singer Sheila’s sci-fi ode to a “man you can’t trace’ whose ‘love will last beyond time and space’.

CARLY SIMON - WHY (Soup For One sound-track, 1982)

Over a hypnotic, reggae-infused groove, Simon delivers the kind of

classy vocal that worked so well two years earlier on Chic’s work with Diana Ross two

years earlier.

DURAN DURAN - NOTORIOUS (Notorious, 1986)

Duran Duran had recently lost a drummer and guitarist when Rodgers came


During a concert in 1986, frontman Simon Le

Bon told the crowd: “this band went through a difficult time,

and it might not have made it if it

weren’t for this gentleman.”