How Elvis and ‘Sugar, Sugar’ helped launch Nile Rodgers’ legendary music career
It was an Elvis Presley record and a pair of blue suede shoes that made a musical mark on Nile Rodgers’ heart.
“My grandmother bought me that record as a birthday present,” the legendary musician and producer said during a recent phone interview. “I used to put on those shoes and dance to that record.”
The groove stayed with a young Rodgers as he wore those blue suede shoes to school every day, carrying the soulful spirit of that song along with him.
In school, the fascination with music only intensified as he learned to read music and play classical guitar.
“Music was part of the standardized curriculum back when I was a kid,” he recalled. “It was a normal thing that schools taught, and I just happened to love music and I stuck with it.”
In the late 1970s, Rodgers had an epiphany that would alter his path and perception of what popular music means.
“I was a serious jazz musician and I was studying with this great jazz teacher,” he said. “One day I was a little depressed and he was wondering why and I said, ‘Because I have to go play a … gig tonight. I have to go play top 40 music.’”
The teacher was miffed that Rodgers would grouse about the job and challenged him by citing the pop song “Sugar, Sugar” by The Archies as an example.
“He said to me, ‘Nile, what makes you think you are the ultimate consumer? Any song that makes it into the top 40 is a great composition,’” Rodgers said. “I was confused and befuddled.”
His teacher then said, “Any song that makes it into the top 40 speaks to the souls of a million strangers.”
That statement stopped Rodgers in his tracks and altered his view of songwriting and music.
“I internalized that notion so strongly and that’s […]