Chic's Nile Rodgers on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Before His Award
Photo courtesy of Diego Paul Sánchez (Burning6)
The list of this year's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees has been announced. Pearl Jam, Tupac Shakur, Journey and Joan Baez are in the lineup.
Chic's Nile Rodgers, the producer behind Madonna's "Like a Virgin" and David Bowie's "Let's Dance," will be receiving an award for musical excellence.
His prize raises a big question Westword spoke with him about it in February: Why, after eleven nominations, has the disco sensation Chic still not been inducted?
Rodgers had the following to say about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame:
...thinking about the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame brings a smile to my face, because if people knew me — and a lot of people at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame know me — they'd know I don't make music for awards. Think about this: If you look at my discography, the amount of hits and number one records I've had is pretty staggering, but I never got a Grammy until Daft Punk. And when we were getting all those Grammys that night, Pharrell kept looking at me and saying, "Wait a minute. You didn't get a Grammy for Let's Dance and 'China Girl' and 'Dress You Up' and 'Good Times' and 'Le Freak'?" And he kept going on and on and on and on. Every time we'd sit back down, he'd say, "Wait a minute." It was almost like a running joke. But when he said, "How could you not get a Grammy for 'Let's Dance'? That's insane," I'd say, "How about Michael Jackson's Thriller? We came out the same year." That's why we didn't get a Grammy. If Michael hadn't come out, we'd probably have gotten a Grammy, but Thriller was the biggest record of all time.
I don't do records for awards. I do records because I'm compelled to do them, and this is what the artists demand of me. I want to make the best record I can. So when we're nominated for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, I always laugh, because hall of fames should be based on statistics, right? Anytime I've heard about a hall of fame — baseball, basketball, whatever it is — they're all based on statistics. Anything other than that is what we'd call an opinion poll. So if you base it on statistics, not only would I be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame — I might be sitting on the throne or something! (Laughs.) How many people have sold more records than me? The Beatles or something?
Take three records. Like a Virgin was more than a double-diamond album: 27 million records. We sold 25 million at the time. Let's Dance: a diamond album, eleven million albums. And look at "Le Freak," the only triple platinum single in Atlantic Records history. And this is a label that's got Bruno Mars, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin. But guess what? There's been one triple platinum single, and it's (sings) "Freak out!" So you say to yourself, wouldn't that guy be pretty important? So whenever we get nominated by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, I think, what is the secret sauce? What did I not do? I have more hit records than most of the people in there. What didn't I do? Didn't I steal enough bases? Because if you base it on hits and home runs, we should be up there with Babe Ruth and some of those guys. Or did I have too many errors? Maybe that's it, because I've had so many flops. Like I said, you have to mine a ton of ore for an ounce of gold — so maybe they're counting the tons and tons of flops that I've had instead of all the hits.
I don't know. It's a funny thing. It makes me laugh, because I don't know how you could call it the Hall of Fame. Maybe they should call it the Hall of Fame opinion poll. It's like when they'd do readers polls, where it's based on your artistic and intellectual achievements. I can accept that. But if they're saying it's a Hall of Fame, which is based on your performance, then I don't get it...
I don't know if we'll never get in. We're the most nominated group of all time. How can you get nominated ten times and not get in? What are they going to do? Wait until I die, like Donna Summer, and then let me in? At that point, I can't make a good joke. (Laughs.) I just want to tell a joke!
To read Westword's full interview with Rodgers, go here.
Below are music videos from songs Rodgers worked on with Chic, Madonna and David Bowie: