Thursday, July 26, 2012

Good times. These. Are. The. Good. Times.

To read the news from across the states and abroad, you wouldn’t think so. These are certainly not good times for everybody.

But Nile Rodgers–that giant of popular music--knows that every day that you draw breath is a precious day, as he deals with nerve damage from an aggressive cancer now in remission. And every day that this gifted artist brings joy to an audience lost in his music is a good day for him and for us.

Nile Rodgers at Lincoln Center Out of Doors (Photo by Darial Sneed)

Case in point: last evening at the Lincoln Center Out of Doors Festival (Damrosch Park Bandshell), where DJ KS*360 (aka Kwikstep of the Full Circle hip-hop empire) primed the party pump before Rodgers and his Chic Organization took the stage. As the head-spinners and Hustle dancers cleared out, I expected a lengthy wait for the main act. But Rodgers quickly took over. Everybody dance! Clap your hands, clap your hands!

The first several rows of folks immediately lurched up, of course, and would not sit down. So, I ditched my press seat and headed for the dance pit--backpack, water bottle, notebook, pen and all. I found a good spot to see, to write, to dance myself into a sweat, and soon wondered why anyone would bother hanging out back in those seats.

(Photo by Kevin Yatarola)

The weather graciously smiled on Rodgers and us. No blistering heat, no rain. Yowsah, yowsah.

Before long, we felt the old tug of that spare yet funky, insistent, intoxicating chugging (Rodgers on guitar, Jerry Barnes on bass, Ralph Rolle on drums, Rich Hilton and Selan Lerner on keyboards), that swirling, flute-y tenor sax (Bill Holloman) and rip-roaring trumpet (Steve Jankowski). I need your love. Please don't make me beg.

Rodgers and The Chic Organization, including vocalists Folami Ankoanda-Thompson (at right) and Kimberly Davis-Jones (Photo by Darial Sneed)
[See more of Darial Sneed's concert photo set here.]

"See that round building?" Rodgers said, pointing at a spot high behind our heads. We all looked around at an imposing tower with curved (if not quite entirely round) details in its design.

"28B." He gave the building's street address, too, which I'm not sure I got right. "We and David Bowie were up in that tower"--the other person in "we" being his great musical partner, Bernard Edwards, who died in 1996. "Chic is not a cover band. All these songs you hear us do, we did for everyone in the first place."

He was talking about little items like "Let's Dance" (for Bowie), "I'm Coming Out" and "Upside Down" (Diana Ross), "Like A Virgin" (Madonna), "We Are Family" and "He's The Greatest Dancer" (Sister Sledge) and an unbelievably massive number of worldwide hits. Throw in the entire slate of music written, arranged, produced and/or played in by the creative partners or each one alone for artists like Robert Palmer, Duran Duran, Rod Stewart, Luther Vandross, INXS, Steve Winwood, Debbie Harry, Grace Jones and so many more, and it's easy to come to the conclusion that without these guys, popular music--spanning and fusing a number of genres--would be unrecognizable.

When me and Bernard were sitting around the studio for hours on end, we always said we were lost in music....
And I remember being lost in that tune--caught in a trap, no turning back--playing and dancing to that particular Sister Sledge song as if I were in an endurance contest with the vinyl LP. We both survived.

It was a great show at Damrosch Park and a great party. I treasure Nile Rodgers and wish him good health and many more years of happiness in his work.

*** 

The always handsomely diverse Lincoln Center Out of Doors Festival, now in its 42nd season, runs through August 12. For a calendar of events, click here.

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