I'm going through a low-point in my physical health but I'm not complaining-Here I am after leaving the emergency room a few days ago
I'm going through a low-point in my physical health but I'm not complaining. Instead I ask myself, "Who has it better than I do?" I've cheated death more times than I can count and I'm currently on the mend (again) and working more than ever before.
Q. What is my job? A. To help expand the artistic reach of pop culture regardless of the medium.
My job is a service job - albeit a creative, fun, and artistic one. As a music-maker, I'm always challenged to help my artists expand their artistic reach. In other words, my job is to make pop, aka popular, aka hits, aka chart-toppers. I don't always get it right because that's spiritually not possible since art is in the heart of the beholder - but I do the best I can.
Yesterday, I was in LA taking meetings regarding some growing interest in my life story being adapted for film, stage-play, graphic novel etc. When I returned to my hotel after filming a segment for a different project, I had a ton of emails congratulating me on my band CHIC being nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This brought a smile to my face but not for the reasons one might think.
CHIC's career was cut dramatically short due to Disco Demolition Night and the Disco Sucks backlash. After a string of gold, platinum, and multiple-platinum records, CHIC never had another hit after the summer of '79, which is when Disco Demo Night took place.
CHIC's last hit was "Good Times." It was released in '79, and some might argue that it was "The surrogate father of hip hop," birthing "Rapper's Delight," and a number of homage successes - amongst them Queen's smash hit "Another One Bites The Dust." Though CHIC never got another hit, both myself and CHIC's co-founder Bernard Edwards, continued to do our jobs (see aforementioned job description).
Last night someone texted me, "This could be CHIC's year because they're allowing the public to vote!" "Really?" I had to check this process out. I went to the RnRHoF site to see how it had been curated. The top CHIC song on the list is "Rebels Are We," which was released in 1980. This song was the beginning of the longest run of flops in my career. I'm not sure if my own mother knows this song let alone the now "voting public."
This is our seventh nomination which understandably has throngs of non-CHIC fans scratching their heads, and I sort of get it. If one were curating this list under the edict of making the voter aware of why CHIC is nominated or just expanding pop culture, shouldn't it include CHIC's most popular recordings, all of which were before 1980? Songs like "Everybody Dance," and even a b-side like "CHIC Cheer," are more well known than the band itself.
One of the greatest things about my life other than the fact that I'm still alive is, I love my "making music" job. Whether CHIC ever gets into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a ton of artists that I did my job with will.
All of the men in the original CHIC Organization have passed away, save me. They had great senses of humor and would get this comedic irony. We formed CHIC based on influences from two distinctive bands of our era: the sophistication of Roxy Music and the anonymity of KISS (before they removed their make-up and Gene Simmons became a famous TV star). Neither of those bands are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame either. I Guess We All F***'d Up?
Here I was having fun on the set between segments
My job is to help expand the artistic reach of pop culture regardless of the medium
The Vaughan Brothers and me - I'm always challenged to help my artists expand their reach
My job is to make pop - I don't always get it right but I do the best I can
CHIC's career was cut dramatically short due to Disco Demolition Night and the Disco Sucks backlash
After a string of gold, platinum, and multiple-platinum records, CHIC never had another hit after the summer of '79, which is when Disco Demo Night took place
Bernard Edwards and me signing CHIC to Atlantic Records in 1977
The story of my life
CHIC's last hit "Good Times" was released in '79
Rapper's Delight with CHIC writer's credit
Queen's "Another One Bites The Dust" is closely related to "Good Times" musically but they didn't sample our master
After I produced David Bowie's "Let's Dance" album, my string of flops ended and soon both Bernard Edwards and I would have a string of successes
Alison Moyet, Johnny Marr, and me performing together a few months ago - I love my "making music" job
The Full Early CHIC Organization - Sadly, of the five guys I'm the only one still alive
Roxy Music were early CHIC role models - they're not in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
KISS were early CHIC role models - they're not in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
Walking past the Gibson Bus on my way to a meeting at Clinton Global Initiative - Every day last week I've had extra activities beyond my usually heavy workload
Every day last week I've had extra activities beyond my usually heavy workload. Midweek, though I didn't injure my back, I was suddenly having excruciating middle-back pain - this happened to coincide with the timing of my regular cancer follow-up examination, so in a way I thought, "How convenient." I spent a full day having the normal battery of test and a few more to address my back problem.
After a routine blood-pressure test my doctor said, "127 over 70 that's good." Well, I'm normally 110 over 70 and I felt that my systolic was most likely higher than normal because I was nervous about my back pain. I went home with basically a clean bill of health but my doctor thought I could have a bladder or urinary tract infection and prescribed antibiotics.
Later that night, the back pain worsened and my temperature and heart rate got very high. I could barely speak or control my muscles. I thought I may be having a stroke based on what I know of my old friend Luther Vandross' story. I called 911. My symptoms were very real but my mind was playing tricks on me and I became afraid.
Sometime the best fear generator is not knowing what's wrong. I waited for the emergency workers to arrive. I'd just been given a relatively clean bill of health and wanted to show them the new medication I'd taken.
My initial fear was reasonable - but as I worked harder to not pass out, I started to think about what was most likely happening. The ambulance arrived and I explained my story as clearly as I could. I adjusted my attitude and I started to slowly feel better. They took me to the hospital for a five hour ordeal. By the time I left my mind was in a good place and I'd reasoned that this was yet another infection that I've become more susceptible to since the first cancer surgery.
I was still a little nervous but I wasn't afraid. I believe the best defense against fear of the unknown is to embrace the fact that "I don't know." My motto is: Try not to be afraid until I'm absolutely positive there's Something to Be Afraid Of.
My regular cancer follow-up examination
I spent a full day having the normal battery of test
These fine guys gave me a few more test to address my back problem
My old friend Luther Vandross died of a stroke
The ambulance arrived and I explained my story to the St Lukes workers as clearly as I could
They took me to the hospital for a five hour ordeal
Chilling in my NYC apartment and my mind is in a good place
Try not to be afraid until I'm absolutely positive there's Something to Be Afraid Of
I try and stay positive and concentrate on feeling better
On my sixtieth birthday I was on a plane heading over to London, England. I was going to attend an old friend's wedding. Nobody could reach me in the air on my milestone birthday, so some of my closest friends embarked upon an epic undertaking.
They sent Happy Birthday from around the world. This was not just from pop stars, but friends from all areas of my life - even twitter and facebook.
Film clips are still coming in and my crew has put together a feature length video. This blog typically talks about my daily adventures since being attacked by aggressive cancer about a year and a half ago - however, the love and positivity in my life flows in both directions and I'd like to share some of it.
Hopefully, I won't have any health issues that override this series of snippets. I'll run as many as I can because they're heartwarming, funny, and entertaining. I'm truly thankful to all my friends and their pets. I'm Still Freaking Out.
John Taylor (Duran Duran)
Dimitri from Paris
Steven Van Zandt
Narada Michael Walden
Me & Mom
Simon Le Bon
André Leon Talley
Here I am in front of Electric Lady Studios and you can see Paul McClean and Rich Hilton's reflections in the glass
CHIC's first single was called "Dance, Dance, Dance" - it was recorded at Electric Lady Studios on West 8th Street in Greenwich Village. This is the studio that was built by Jimi Hendrix. It was in the heart of the neighborhood I was raised in. When I was a kid Electric Lady was a nightclub called Generation.
When I was sixteen-years old I'd go to Generation even though the legal drinking age then was eighteen. Because of the military draft system America had during the Vietnam War, our primary form of identification was a draft card. This was a simple document that was easily forged in any high school print shop so all my friends had them. Many eighteen-year olds looked like sixteen-year olds and vice versa, so I was never asked to leave any club. Though I was skinny and looked very young, I had a draft card.
After Generation became Electric Lady, I worked with scores of artists there: INXS, Hall & Oates, CHIC, Macy Gray, D'Angelo, Femi Kuti, Roy Hargrove, Daft Punk and more than I can count without looking up a music reference guide.
I was going to do a long blog today about all the people, places and things that I've done since becoming a professional musician because I've been walking all over New York with Paul McClean from BBC Radio. But while I was writing this, I realized today is my Birthday.
I started this blog talking about being sixteen-years old, and today I'm sixty-years old. Given what I've been through in my life, honestly, I'm just Happy to be Alive on My Birthday.
Our first single "Dance, Dance, Dance" was cut at Electric Lady Studios
This cheap paper stock document that was smaller than a credit card "when folded" was called a draft card and it was easy to forge
Practicing a Fela song with Questlove, D'Angelo, and Femi Kuti in Electric Lady's lounge
I took a picture with Paul then I took him inside Electric Lady Studios
I told Paul a ton of great Electric Lady recording stories
There was somebody recording in Electric Lady in total secrecy while we where there - I have a pretty good idea who it is
I realized it was my birthday so I looked up other birthday photos - Last year I got my first Ice-Cream Birthday Cake
CHIC reunion on my birthday with Paul Schaffer, Luci Martin, me Alfa Anderson, Bernard Edwards and Fonzi Thornton
Lionel Richie, Esai Morales, Nile, Russell Wong, Dustin Nguyen and girls affectionately called Niley's Angels outside my birthday day party in LA
Okay I admit it, I went out for a really fast drive today because I'm just Happy to be Alive on my Birthday
Heading to where The Roxy Club used to be - The spot where I met Madonna
The weather is perfect for Walking on Planet C with BBC Radio's Paul McClean, cloudless skies and sub-tropical warmth. Normally, I'd randomly walk with no particular destination in mind - but we were tracing some specific steps from my biography Le Freak. I've had such a crazy life, it's a miracle I'm alive.
I became self aware around the age of five and my earliest memories are of life in lower Manhattan. My parents were both heroin addicts and life was very Nomadic. For a while we lived at 780 Greenwich Street. I remember legendary jazz musician Thelonious Monk coming over to buy one of my mother's then fashionable fur coats.
I've lived in Greenwich Village, Chinatown, The Lower East Side, and when I turned sixteen I even lived in the subway. I've been a member of The Cub Scouts, The Boy Scouts, The Boys Club of America, and I was the sub-section leader of the Lower-Manhattan section of the Black Panther Party's Harlem branch. Our headquarters was our section leader's parents fashionable townhouse on West Twenty-First Street.
The next door neighbors were famed actor Anthony Perkins of the Hitchcock film Psycho, and his wife-to-be Berry Berenson. Later in life she'd become my photographer and friend. She died tragically in the first plane that was crashed into The World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
Within a few blocks of that 21st Street townhouse I'd eventually meet David Bowie and Madonna for the first time - Bowie at the Continental nightclub on 25th Street, and Madonna at The Roxy club on 18th Street. We'd Make Music History Together. (Walking to be continued)
When I was in second grade I lived at 780 Greenwich Street. The marble in the entrance looks the same as when the building was originally built. We were some of the first tennants
Me & Mom - She was 14 and I was a few months old - I became self aware around the age of 5
Thelonious Monk on the cover of Time Magazine
As we were walking we met this lovely woman Alexa, who said The Lower Eastside Girls Club is still there
Our Lower-Manhattan section of the Black Panther Party Harlem branch was a 21st street townhouse
Berry Berenson and Tony Perkins back in the day
Nile Rodgers photo by Berry Berenson
David Bowie performing "Modern Love" produced by Nile Rodgers
Madonna's Like A Virgin album is her biggest seller
Over the last couple days I've been Walking on Planet C with Paul McClean of BBC Radio
Over the last couple days, I've been Walking on Planet C with Paul McClean of BBC Radio, and my Jack-of-all-trades assistant Rich Hilton. Planet C is a term I've coined for life once cancer strikes. Walking is the main part of my therapy that I can control. It helps with my overall fitness and it's the peaceful time of the day that I have to myself. On my walks I never carry a music player because music is always inside my head - that music is always inspired by the sights and sounds I encounter on my walks.
In twenty-one months, this is only the second time I've walked with anyone else. Paul McClean has read my book Le Freak and interviewed me in Belfast. He wanted to see scenes from my freaky past life and it's ongoing chapters. I told him before we started our walk, "I promise you will not be able to keep up with all of the sights and sounds - because I have a Rock-n-Roll story about every street in New York City."
We started on 125 Street - at the Apollo Theater. In the 70's as a member of the house band, I'd backed an endless list of heavyweights: Parliament Funkadelic, Betty Wright, Aretha Franklin, and Screaming Jay Hawkins to name just a few. Then we walked east when I suddenly remembered seeing Jimi Hendrix perform for the last time just ahead on Randall's Island. As we approached President Clinton's offices on the corner of 125th St. & 7th Avenue, we'd been told we'd just missed Paul Simon by about an hour. Paul and I have been friends for years and have worked together a number of times.
We rounded the corner and made our way down 7th Avenue to the site of the old Black Panther Party Harlem branch office. Along the way I was greeted by a police officer by name and we shook hands and talked about music. Back in the 60's when I was a Black Panther I'd also been "greeted" by police officers called the Tactical Police Force or TPF. They've since been disbanded and The Black Panther office is now a beauty shop. (To be continued: Walking on Planet C With the BBC.)
He wanted to see scenes from my freaky past life and it's ongoing chapters
We started on 125 Street at the Apollo Theater
I gigged with Betty Wright at the Apollo
I gigged with Screaming Jay back in the day
I jammed with Funkadelic at the Apollo
Jimi Hendrix - When I saw him play Randall's Island it was just a few months before he died
President Bill Clinton in Harlem
Paul Simon & me performing at my Foundation's gala
Academy Award nominated director/author Jamal Joseph at 16 yrs old in front of The Black Panther Party office
I was greeted by a police officer in Harlem by name and we shook hands and talked about music
Greeted by police - I'm 16 yrs old and the 5th dude down - Metal framed glasses on my nose - Jamal was in jail - Panther 21
What was once the Black Panther Party office is now a beauty shop
I invited some friends to perform some Tight A$$ Dance Music with me
On July 13, 2012 I invited some friends to come to Montreux, Switzerland with me and play some Tight A$$ Dance Music.
Tight A$$ Photos by Alexandre Guidetti
Me in the Morning
Ultra Nate Dj'ing
CHIC's Don Harris and Bill Holloman
La Roux's Elly Jackson
CHIC's Ralph Rolle
CHIC's Kimberly Davis
People partying on stage to CHIC's Tight A$$ Dance Music
My friend, the extraordinary guitarist, Stevie Ray Vaughan
Back in the 70's and 80's there was a jet-setting world party going on. It was the era of mega-clubs, mega-optimism, and the soirees at Hugh Hefner's Playboy Mansion, were actually cutting-edge and fun. Those days are long gone, the innocent days before air marshals, shoe and underwear bombers and the TSA.
I've logged millions of miles since then and know airline personnel whom I consider to be friends for life. One such person is Captain Scott Roper, of Delta Airlines. He's a music lover and a guitar player. The day we met he knew I was the dude who'd produced David Bowie's Let's Dance and the Vaughan Brother's Family Style.
I've known Scott for many years now and he called me yesterday and said, "Hey Nile, I'd like to donate my Stevie Ray Vaughan Signature model guitar to the We Are Family Foundation. It's autographed by Buddy Guy who told me, The finish is nicer than the one I bought, so let me sign on a piece of clear tape.""
I was blown away and couldn't thank him enough. I could tell Scott loves this instrument and from the pictures it looks like some serious SRV #GuitarPorn.
Back in the 70's there was a jet-setting world party going on - Here's Hugh Hefner's jet called The Big Bunny
Captain Scott Roper, of Delta Airlines is a music lover and a guitar player
Stevie Ray and Jimmie Vaughan in the background while we were recording Family Style
Recording Family Style with the Vaughan Bros
David Bowie, Stevie Ray Vaughan & me
Scott's SRV Signature Strat. It's autographed by Buddy Guy who told me, "The finish is nicer than the one I bought, so let me sign on a piece of clear tape."
I could tell Scott loves this instrument and from the pictures it looks like some serious SRV #GuitarPorn
Me playing factory Gold Plated Strat on The Vaughan Bros Family Style
Vaughan Brothers Tour Shirt
Part of the Vaughan Brothers guitar arsenal
More parts of the Vaughan Brothers' guitar arsenal
Dawn Ciolfi & Scott Roper at Delta JFK
Some of my platinum albums that Stevie Ray Vaughan played on - Let's Dance and Family Style
My autographed copy of John Taylor's bio "In The Pleasure Groove - Love, Death and Duran Duran"
There have been so many deaths of friends and acquaintances lately, which remind me just how precious the gift of life is. Some friends had passed away unexpectedly and others after long bouts with various illnesses. There's a saying that goes, "When one door closes another opens" – that's truly been my life's pattern.
I've gotten an unusually large amount of calls, emails, and visits from people I've not seen or heard from in a long time this week. Though I have high regard for them all, it's especially rewarding when I hear from someone that I've worked with. Working with artists locked away in a recording studio, sometimes for months, creates an almost military type of bond.
This evening I've spent the night catching up with one of my all time closest platoon-mates - John Taylor, from Duran Duran. We talked about everything and everyone. The first words out of his mouth were, "This is long overdue."
I hadn't seen JT for a couple of years and one of my longest recording relationships has been with Duran Duran. This week spanned the gamut of work relationship linkages - folks I've worked with on everything, from Madonna to Adam Lambert.
John Taylor and me at Cafe Luxembourg, where he gave me a copy of his new biography
A page from John's new biography, In The Pleasure Groove. I'm the dude between Nick & Simon in the Michael Jackson-esque chainmail vest
The first words out of John's mouth were, "This is long overdue"
Simon, Nick and John of Duran Duran back in the original China Club
John Taylor and me back in the 80's doing the heavy hang
Me, Mick Jagger, & John Taylor at Limelight in the VIP room
John Taylor and me
Me and Madonna at Live Aid - I got a call from my old guitar tech who worked that show today
Today I recorded a track with Rich Hilton, who also recorded me playing "Shady" with Adam Lambert
Summer is officially over and now we Americans go back to work
Summer is officially over and now we Americans go back to work. I've worked harder this summer than any summer of my life - so the calendar has little meaning to me other than it being a measuring tool of events. My life is a journey through endless mazes, tunnels, windows, and doors with no knowledge of what's on the other side of any of them.
This past summer I've played countless shows and guitar on a number of records, composed dozens of songs, written scores of blog posts and spoken at a number of book and corporate events, penned a few articles for newspapers, and have snapped thousands of photographs. I've always worked hard but since being attacked by aggressive cancer almost two years ago, I've more than doubled my workload. I figure I'll just be too busy to answer the door When Death Comes Knocking.
I've worked harder this summer than any summer of my life!!
My life is a journey through endless mazes with no knowledge of what's on the other side
This past summer I've played countless shows
Kim & me on "He's The Greatest Dancer" at Ibiza 123
Me playing guitar on "Shady" with Adam Lambert
Me in one of Pablo Picasso's cape-maker's capes being shot by the legendary Bruce Weber at my apartment
Signing a staffers t-shirt at a book event (while it's still on her body)
I gave a speech at DraftFCB ad agency with another music man, Billy Man
I've penned a few articles for newspapers
My first meal after cancer surgery and since then, I've more than doubled my workload
I have snapped thousands of photographs this summer