Nile Rodgers (or `Pud' to his family) is a lucky man. Not in terms of his successful musical career as a songwriter and producer, or the long list of people he's worked with, but lucky in fact that he's lived to tell the tale, and what a story it is.
From the age of seven this New York native witnessed his parents injecting themselves on a daily basis, his constant asthma attacks, plus the fact that his mother was always leaving him with another relative, as he said himself "I felt I wasn't good enough to keep".
Add to this the fact that his grandmother was raped and became pregnant as a result; the school caretaker was abusing the children around him. To be a survivor he would have to look after himself, this included skipping school and befriending a wino who'd write sick notes for him. His father had being left at the altar by his mother, turning his dad into a bum on the streets and ironically Nile would run into him, as he says "not once, but twice, 10 years apart in a city of 8 million people".
Moving back to California (so his mother could shake her drug habit), Nile would start glue sniffing, lose his virginity, while his mother would be raped.
Despite all this, it was music he wanted to pursue, and getting that first guitar for Christmas changed everything. Once his mothers' boyfriend tuned it and he could play A Day In The Life, and he never looked back. As he says himself "I strummed and a perfect G-major chord rang out......then strummed an E minor and dropped to the seventh. There are no words to accurately describe what this felt like". This is why he ran away from home at 14, with his guitar, eventually joining the Sesame Street theatrical road show (a 70s version of Glee perhaps).
Not long after his dad died, Nile turned professional. His first band was the New World Rising. He jammed with Hendrix and found the last chord (their musical nirvana), played coffee commercials and played with Screaming Jay Hawkins at the Apollo (funny story).
While working as a session musician he would meet his soul-mate Bernard Edwards, and the rest as they say is CHIC-tory. Replicating Kiss's anonymity and Roxy Music's musical diversity, and ensuring every one of their songs had that D.H.M. (deep hidden meaning) they cleverly got studio team by paying an elevator operator 10 bucks to let them in when everyone was gone home.
But it's fascinating to hear their story from New Year's Eve 1977 when they failed to gain entry to a Grace Jones party. They went home pissed off, wrote their biggest hit `Le Freak' and 12 million copies, and 30 years later the doorman would facebook Nile to apologise for not letting him in. Who's laughing now?
On the success of that, Edwards would walked into a car showroom and asked "which one of these cars goes with a brown tie" and would eventually buy two, as Nile says "unbalancing their carefully styled showroom".
There are tonnes of these stories sprinkled between the cocaine habits that almost cost him his life on many occasions. There's the time he ended up in the same Emergency room as Andy Warhol, how he saw a famous female movie star being shagged in the balcony of Studio 54, Sister Sledge asking him to change the lyrics of `He's The Greatest Dancer', how Diana Ross blamed them for trying to ruin her career, (only months before that song would top the charts), what tattoo Bowie has on his lower leg, how Duran's record company didn't like `The Reflex' or why he walked out on Madonna, and wouldn't shag her.
Bowie wanted "hits" and Nile provided them, provoking Bowie to later credit him in a speech "Nile Rodgers, the only man who could make me start a song with a chorus" (Let's Dance). While success was everywhere for him, over 100 of his friends and associated were dying and in February 1991 he would have died himself, only he accidently pushed the wrong floor number in the lift. He's certainly used up most of those nine lives, and would go on to work with Michael Jackson (who revealed to him a year in advance that his marriage to Lisa-Marie was heading for the divorce courts) long before the media had a clue of it.
Thankfully he would be there when his great friend Bernard Edwards died in a Tokyo Hotel, but Nile insists that his family sit down every year for Thanksgiving and thrash out all these stories. This year it's Nile turn to discuss his recent cancer scare, and hopefully he'll be around for many years to come. This book is a fascinating and absorbing read from start to finish. Good times.