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Chic is an African-American disco and R&B band that was organized during 1976 by guitarist Nile Rodgers and bassist Bernard Edwards. It is known best for its commercially successful disco songs, including "Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)" (1977), "Everybody Dance" (1977), "Le Freak" (1978), "I Want Your Love" (1978), "Good Times" (1979), and "My Forbidden Lover" (1979).
Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards met during 1970, as fellow session musicians working in the New York City area. They formed a rock band named The Boys and later The Big Apple Band, playing numerous gigs around New York City. But despite interest in their demonstration songs, they could not get a record contract, possibly in part because music companies of the time didn't believe that ethnically African artists could create saleable rock music.
During 1977, Edwards and Rodgers had former LaBelle and Ecstasy, Passion, & Pain drummer Tony Thompson join the band, performing as a trio doing cover versions at various gigs. Needing a singer to become a full band, they engaged Norma Jean Wright by an agreement permitting her to have a solo career in addition to her work for the band. Using a young recording engineer Bob Clearmountain, they created a demonstration tape which included the tracks "Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)" and "Everybody Dance". As a result, Chic became a support act.
Now contracted with Atlantic Records company, during 1977 they released the self-titled debut album Chic which was an extension of the demonstration tape. But Edwards and Rogers were now convinced that to replicate the bands recording studio sound live with sound and visuals, they needed to add another female singer to front the band. Wright suggested her friend Luci Martin, who became a member during late winter/early spring of 1978.
Soon after the sessions ended for its debut album, the band members began to work on Wright's self-titled debut solo album Norma Jean, released during 1978. This album contained the successful nightclub song "Saturday." To facilitate Wright's solo career, the band had agreed to contract her with a separate record company. Unfortunately the legalities of this contract eventually forced Wright to end her relationship with the band during mid-1978, but not before she participated with the sessions for Chic-produced Sister Sledge album We Are Family. She was replaced by Alfa Anderson, who had done back-up vocals on the band’s debut album. For the Sister Sledge project, Edwards and Rogers wrote and produced "He's the Greatest Dancer" (originally intended to be a Chic song) in exchange for "I Want Your Love" (intended originally to be performed by Sister Sledge).
During late 1978, the band released the album C'est Chic, containing one of its best-known tracks, "Le Freak." Created from a jam session in Edwards's apartment, after they had failed on New Years Eve of 1977 to meet with Grace Jones at New York's exclusive nightclub Studio 54. The original refrain "Aaa, fuck off", intended for the doormen of Studio 54, was replaced that night with "Aaa, freak out" after trying a version with "Aaa, freak off." The resultant single was a great success, scoring #1 on the US charts and selling more than 6 million copies. It was the best selling single album ever of Atlantic's parent company, Warner Music, until replaced by Madonna's Vogue during 1990.
The next year, the group released the Risqué album and the lead track "Good Times", one of the most influential songs of the era. The track was the basis of Grandmaster Flash's "Adventures on the Wheels of Steel" and the Sugarhill Gang's breakthrough hip-hop music single, "Rapper's Delight", and it has been sampled since by many dance and hip-hop acts, as well as being the inspiration for Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust", Blondie's "Rapture", and the bass line forDaft Punk "Around the World".
At the same time, Edwards and Rodgers composed, arranged, performed, and produced many influential disco and Rhythm & Blues records for various artists, including Sister Sledge's albums We Are Family (1979) and Love Somebody Today (1980); Sheila and B. Devotion's "Spacer"; Diana Ross's 1980 album Diana, which included the successful singles "Upside Down", "I'm Coming Out" and "My Old Piano"; Carly Simon's "Why" (from 1982 soundtrack Soup For One); and Debbie Harry's debut solo album KooKoo.
Chic also helped introduce the world to a young vocalist named Luther Vandross, who sang for several of Chic's albums.
After the anti-disco reaction, the band struggled to obtain both airplay and sales, and during the early 1980s they disbanded. Rodgers and Edwards produced records for a variety of artists together and separately. The Chic rhythm section of Rodgers, Edwards, and Thompson provided instrumental back-up for the successful album Diana for Diana Ross during 1980, with Rodgers and Edwards producing. It yielded the number-one single "Upside Down" and the top ten song "I'm Coming Out." "My Old Piano" was also a top ten single for Ross in the United Kingdom. Rodgers co-produced David Bowie's 1983 album Let's Dance and was also responsible largely for the early success of Madonna during 1984 with her Like a Virgin album, which again reunited Rodgers, Thompson, and Edwards, with keyboardist Rob Sabino and collaborators Jeff Bova and Jimmy Bralower. During 1984, Rodgers was involved with a project of the band The Honeydrippers and helped produce that band's only EP. Thompson and Edwards worked with the group Power Station on its successful 1985 album, as well as Power Station main singer Robert Palmer's solo success Riptide that same year, both of which Edwards produced. During 1986, Rodgers produced the fourth album from Duran Duran, Notorious. Bernard Edwards later gave Duran Duran's bassist John Taylor the bass guitar he'd played during on many of Chic's songs. Taylor had long been a Chic fan, his style influenced greatly by Edwards' playing.
After a 1989 birthday party where Rodgers, Edwards, Paul Shaffer, and Anton Fig played old Chic songs, Rodgers and Edwards organized a reunion of the old band. They recorded new material—- a single, "Chic Mystique" (remixed by Masters at Work) and subsequent album Chic-Ism, both of which charted—- and played live all over the world, to great audience and critical acclaim.
During 1996, Rodgers was honored as the Top Producer in the World in Billboard Magazine, and was named a JT Super Producer. That year, he performed with Bernard Edwards, Sister Sledge, Steve Winwood, Simon Le Bon, and Slash in a series of commemorative concerts in Japan. His longtime musical partner Edwards died of pneumonia at age 43 during the trip on April 18, 1996. His final performance was recorded and released as Live at the Budokan. Chic continued to tour with new musicians.
Thompson died of kidney cancer on November 12, 2003 at age 48.