Nile Rodgers Masters the Art (and Music) of Reinvention
Nile Rodgers masters the art of reinvention.
Long and successful careers often are the result of reinventing yourself, or your business, to keep pace with changing times.
Few exemplify that better than musician Nile Rodgers, whose career has spanned decades and encompassed everything from playing guitar in the Sesame Street band and forming the popular disco/funk group CHIC to producing bestselling albums for the likes of Madonna and David Bowie and composing soundtracks for video games.
"I am absolutely fascinated with music and the opportunities it has given me," Rodgers told BusinessNewsDaily.
His career rose to fame in the late 1970s as a songwriter and guitarist with CHIC. The group produced chart-topping songs including "Le Freak," Atlantic Records' only triple platinum-selling single, and "Good Times."
As the 1970s faded, though, so too did the popularity of disco, forcing Rodgers to quickly determine a way to extend his career in the field he loved so much.
"One day I was a hero, but the next day, through no fault of my own, I was persona non grata and had to reinvent myself," he said.
Instead of performing, Rodgers took his talents behind the scenes to focus on songwriting and producing. In 1980, he helped write and produce an album for Diana Ross that churned out a number of hits, including "Upside Down" and "Coming Out."
It was his flexibility and ability to work with a wide range of artists and music styles that led to his success as a producer.
Rodgers went on to produce songs for David Bowie, INXS and Duran Duran. In 1984, he produced Madonna's blockbuster album Like a Virgin, and did albums for Sheena Easton, Jeff Beck, The Thompson Twins and Mick Jagger. He was eventually honored by Billboard magazine as the top singles producer in the world.
In the late 1980s, he took a different direction – another effort to further his career in the changing music business– and began composing orchestral soundtracks for movies, including Coming to America, White Hot and Earth Girls Are Easy.
"Music is my toolbox," Rodgers said. "Whenever I am trying to figure out a way to propel my life forward from one place to another, I go back to my music toolbox."
He suggests the same strategy for other entrepreneurs, saying they should return to whatever tools helped make them originally successful when looking for ways to reinvent their business.
"Don't stray too far from those formulas," Rodgers said. "Those basic rules still apply."
In the last decade, Rodgers has further expanded his portfolio by writing soundtracks for video games and commercials.
"There are no accolades with it," he said. "You just do it to work on your craft."
Rodgers, who also recently wrote his memoir, "Le Freak," believes the key to his long and diverse career has been his willingness to remain open-minded to new possibilities.
"I never stop learning," Rodgers said. "I always remain teachable."
This month, Rodgers will reunite with his CHIC band mates for a series of concerts across Australia. The group is scheduled to kick off the Australian tour Monday in Sydney.
Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who spent 10 years working as a newspaper reporter before working in public relations. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cbrooks76.