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
Today I'd dreamt a wild mandrill was outside my window and I didn't know whether to run for my camera or run for my life
Today I awakened from a nightmare before I realized I was dreaming. I'd dreamt a wild mandrill was outside my window and I didn't know whether to run for my camera or run for my life. When I looked again, I saw there was no wild primate waiting to pounce on me.
My moment of peace was short lived when I looked at the clock and saw I'd overslept. I quickly got dressed because I had a meeting scheduled with an assistant dean from Drexel University.
Earlier this year I'd been given an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters degree from the institution. It was really a great honor which I'll always cherish. As I was getting the degree I couldn't help but think, "Not bad for a person who set the national truancy record for the entire parochial school system of the United States of America, at seven years old."
Drexel University is in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and is also the home of the famed Sigma Sound Studios tape library archive. They've successfully saved this precious resource that's played such an important role in R&B, Pop, and Dance Music, which to this day continues To Save My Life.
I quickly got dressed because I had a meeting
Driving to meet with assistant dean of Drexel University, Louisa Hanshew
Earlier this year I'd been given an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters degree
It was really a great honor which I'll always cherish
Not bad for a person who set the national truancy record for the entire parochial school system of the United States of America, at seven years old.
Everyday, music continues To Save My Life
Drexel University is in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and is also the home of the famed Sigma Sound Studios tape library archive
A Le Freak book party in Belfast, Ireland with some new friends
It's been almost a year since my memoir Le Freak was released. The experience has given me more than I'd ever expected. I've come to know so many new people by sharing my story with the book's readers. And they've gotten to know what life was like in a time and a place that can never be documented enough as far as I'm concerned. The music, fashion, and idealism was wonderful in that time. I believe I have a lot of music, life, and love left in me, and I'll be idealistic until my last breath - I call it acceptance.
Yesterday, a lifelong friend and cancer survivor lost two of his close relatives. "The planet is going through some shit" he said. But, damn, I've developed such a Zen calm about things. Serene, Almost, but Not Indifference."
Kyle MacLachlan, Angela Yee, me and Gayle King at my 1st Le Freak Salon
Me at the Edinburgh International Book Festival where my book sold out
It's been almost a year since my memoir Le Freak was released
The experience has given me more than I'd ever expected
Do you have a copy of Le Freak yet?
An autographed copy of Le Freak for the book store
Serene, Almost, but Not Indifference
7x7TH STREET Animation tracks down the street and stops at my Indigo F Shack
Just a few days ago I was in Edinburgh, Scotland at the Fringe Festival. It's the biggest arts festival in the world. I was there primarily as an author but I was also there as a composer. I was part of a project called 7x7TH STREET. Seven different composers scored seven different interactive sculptures that were displayed in structures that were the colors that corresponded to the seven tones of a major scale in music. It was the brain-child of Belgian neo-pop artist, Jean Pierre Muller.
My composition is in the key of f, represented by the color indigo. The entire piece represents the many phases of my life. The overall length is around eleven minutes with seven movements. It's called the "Indigo F Suite" and today's playlist will start with the "F Jazz Blues Movement."
Jamming on some jazz for the folks at the Edinburgh Book Festival before talking about my memoir Le Freak
The wall display inside the Indigo F house on 7x7TH STREET
Me inside the the indigo house on 7x7TH STREET (I love that the photographer is visible in my eyeglasses)
Hanging on 7x7TH STREET
Chilling on 7x7TH STREET
Letter I is the beginning of the "F Jazz Blues Movement" (Yes, I know there should be a double bar marking)
Mr Welsh holding back a little chuckle as I play "Aw Fuck Off," the original version of "Le Freak"
The last few days in Edinburgh have been nothing short of amazing. I was there primarily for the Edinburgh International Book Festival, where I did two formal events, but I was also a part of the Edinburgh Arts Festival at Summerhall's Visual Arts Programme. I collaborated with artist Jean Pierre Muller to create 7x7, an exhibition on an entire street with him and seven musicians: Robert Wyatt, Archie Shepp, Sean O' Hagan, Mulatu Astatake, Kassin, Terry Riley and myself.
There were so many highlights that happened over the last few days, I literally could write an entire book on all of my amazing encounters. Since this is only a blog, I'll show and tell you about a mere few in no particular order of Importance or Hipness.
Highly opinionated author extraordinaire Irvine Welsh interviewed me at sold out event for my memoir Le Freak
Me in the foreground with Clive Anderson on BBC 4 show Loose Ends - Greg Proops from Whose Line Is It Anyway (left)
Me and the brilliant TV personality Sue Perkins, who interviewed me at the 7x7TH STREET exhibit
My little corner of the 7x7TH STREET - Check out Norma Jean poster at the Lenox Lounge
A night I'll never forget - I picked up my guitar and the whole place started singing almost every song I'd ever written
I stole the idea from a beautiful girl that I met in Ibiza when I posed for this photo at the book festival
The book signing line was so long it went outside and around the building
7x7TH STREET in the Summerhall booklet (photo taken while the street was under construction)
Playing jazz standards while the people take their seats for my first book lecture
Fan holds up one of the bowie albums I produced while heading to their seat
Me in front of the 7x7 sculputre that features my F Indigo Suite