Freak out with chic
Dig out your finest polyester and slip on the platform shoes. A fusion of disco and dance is descending upon the Broward Center for the Performing Arts for one night only, Sunday, February 29th.
“Disco Inferno” will feature performances by Nile Rodgers of Chic, the Trammps, Rose Royce and Thelma Houston. The man behind it all is Rodgers, who, with Chic, exploded on the disco scene with classic dance floor hits like “Le Freak” and “Good Times.” But Rodgers’ musical talents go far beyond Chic’s late 70’s hits. He has produced some of the most prolific albums in pop history, including David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance,” Madonna’s “Like a Virgin,” and The B-52’s “Cosmic Thing.”
Rodgers’ successful “Disco Inferno” tours began by accident. For the last two years running, Chic has sold out shows at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles with a similar concept. The first year the group headlined a show that paid homage to the 25th anniversary of “Saturday Night Fever.” Though Chic had nothing to do with the film, the other artists playing the venue did. Rodgers noticed when those artists played with Chic, it completely changed their sound.
“We are a live band and always have been,” said Rodgers. “And a lot of the artists from the area are produced artists. They are singers that just go in and do a vocal while the producer comes up with a concept. So when the artists performed with us, it just changed the whole artistic credibility of their performance and vibe. We really noticed a difference in the house.”
Rodgers did another show the following year with the same results, drawing a crowd of 18,500 people.
“I thought maybe this was a good idea because people have a great connection to this kind of music,” said Rodgers. “It’s very celebratory and uplifting. In most cases it was the anthem of a generation.”
Rodgers feels a strong connection to gay fans and has a huge gay following. The main driving force behind Chic was that the 70’s were a celebratory period of social and political gains from the 60’s, he said. The music celebrated the hard-fought battles of the black civil rights movement, the end of the Vietnam War, the women’s movement and the advancement of gay civil rights.
“That’s why we have artists like Sylvestor and the Village People, and I wrote songs like ‘I’m Coming Out’ for Diana Ross and ‘We Are Family’ for Sister Sledge,” said Rodgers. “Those are the victories we were celebrating with our music”.
Rodgers got the idea to write “I’m Coming Out” while hanging out at a gay club in New York called the GG Barnum Room. The gay clubs in New York had the best underground music, so Rodgers frequented them to find out what the next big thing music would be. After seeing three different drag queens dressed as Diana Ross, Rodgers imagined what it would be like if Ross were to come out of the closet. For gay men the song came to mean one thing, and for Ross a completely different one.
“Diana Ross is not gay, so her singing ‘I’m Coming Out’ was not about coming out of the closet,” said Rodgers. “But it was like she was coming out of another form of the closet because she was leaving Motown and she had been under the thumb of Berry Gordy her whole life and this was the one thing she had done on her own.”
Another connection Rodgers has with his gay audiences is his affinity for legendary divas. In addition to Dianna Ross, he names Madonna and Grace Jones as favorites.
Madonna, he said, “was the most professional person I may have worked with in my whole life.”
And he called Grace Jones “a superstar, and one of the most artistic, opinionated and misunderstood divas of all time.”
Nile Rodgers’ Disco Inferno
Broward Center for Performing Arts
Feb. 29, 7 pm.
2010, Express Gay News., All Rights Reserved.