Incredibly, Chic co-founder and production legend Nile Rodgers didn’t take home his first Grammys until last year, thanks to his work on Daft Punk’s Album of the Year winner Random Access Memories. But at a Grammy Week event honoring Rodgers, held by the Producers & Engineers Wing of the Recording Academy at Los Angeles’s famous Village Recording Studios on Tuesday, Rodgers proved he’s worthy of a Lifetime Achievement Award — entertaining an all-star crowd with Storytellers-esque tales of his five-decade career, and even jamming with a new friend, the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea, on a few of his old classics.
In his speech, the “true Renaissance artist” (as described by National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences president Neal Portnow) admitted: “I feel very uncomfortable when it comes to awards, because I never win ‘em! I know dance records don’t get respect. I was blown away [when Random Access Memories won Album of the Year]… Dance music changed my life.” He also quipped that the most “likes” he ever received on an Instagram photo was the snap he took of the back of Daft Punk’s heads while seated at last year’s Grammy ceremony.
Sharing anecdotes about getting fired by Ashford & Simpson as their producer because he and his partner Bernard Edwards were just too good, overcoming “aggressive cancer,” overcoming the “Disco Sucks” backlash, and helping write the David Bowie hit “Let’s Dance” that rebooted his post-disco career, the 62-year-old had the party’s private audience — which included the Cars’ Ric Ocasek, Duran Duran’s John Taylor, and “Weird Al” Yankovic — cheering. He received some his wildest applause when he described his approach to music-making: “We make art. We don’t do disposable pop. That’s not how we grew up.”
But when it came time for Rodgers’s post-speech jam session, that’s when bassist extraordinaire Flea hopped onstage. Sister Sledge’s Kathy Sledge joined them for a singalong of the Rodgers-coproduced “We Are Family” (the title of which inspired Rodgers’s non-profit organization), and the party’s resident turntablist, DJ Cassidy, joined in for “Good Times” (see above), which turned into a mashup of the “Good Times”-sampling Sugar Hill Gang hit “Rapper’s Delight,” with Rodgers switching to rapping after he became too hoarse to sing.
Rodgers is currently working on the first Chic album in 23 years and the new album by his longtime collaborators, Duran Duran; both records are slated for release in 2015. Chic’s disco classic “Le Freak” was entered into the Grammy Hall of Fame last year.