Song: “Le Freak” by Chic
Reached #1: December 9, 1978 (their first, 6 weeks)
Chic served as America’s introduction to one of the most influential producers the music industry has ever seen…
At the time, Nile Rodgers was the former guitarist for the Big Apple Band, who’d teamed up with Bernard Edwards as The Boys before reforming and renaming the Big Apple Band. The new name? Chic.
Rodgers and Edwards wrote and produced much of Chic’s first album, including their first #1. But “Le Freak” wasn’t the original title, nor was “Freak out!!” the hook. Nope, it started a bit… earthier. Rodgers and Edwards had been kept out of Studio 54 by overzealous security when they tried to accept Grace Jones’ invitation to 54’s New Year’s Eve 1977 party. The experience led them to write the first draft of the song… “F*ck off!!!” Clearly, the song cleaned up very well…
It was the first song to have three separate runs at #1 on the Hot 100, and the only one to do so until 2008 (“Bleeding Love” by Leona Lewis). Chic knocked Barbra & Neil out of #1 for a week, were shoved back out of the top spot by the duo, took the spot back for 2 weeks, were kicked out by the Bee Gees, and then got their final 3 weeks on top.
This was also one of the last dying gasps of the disco era – Chic’s followup, “Good Times”, survived the disco backlash to hit #1 in 1979. After that, Rodgers and Edwards produced albums as the Chic Organization through 1983. Then…?
It would take a while to list the music Nile Rodgers brought his talents to. But here’s a few: David Bowie’s Let’s Dance; Duran Duran’s “The Reflex” and Notorious; Madonna’s Like A Virgin; Robert Plant’s Honeydrippers project; numerous ‘80s movie soundtracks… and I haven’t even gotten to the last 25 years yet.
This isn’t to slight Bernard Edwards – after all, he helped found the Power Station – but over time, it became clear that Rodgers was the real driving force in Chic.
Sadly, it was during a Chic mini-reunion tour that the partnership ended permanently – Edwards developed pneumonia during a 1996 Japan tour and refused to stop performing… which weakened him enough for the pneumonia to kill him.
Rodgers’ most recent work includes production for Adam Lambert and Daft Punk.
Tomorrow, an epic duet between two of the biggest sellers in pop music.
Other songs that reached #1 on December 9:
1972 – “I Am Woman” by Helen Reddy (her first, 1 week)
1989 – “We Didn’t Start The Fire” by Billy Joel (his third, 2 weeks)