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Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco and Destiny [Hardcover]

Nile Rodgers
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)

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Book Description

20 Oct 2011

You will hear a Nile Rodgers song today. It will make you happy.

Legendary producer and co-founder of Chic, Nile Rodgers wrote 'We are Family' for Sister Sledge and 'I'm Coming Out' for Diana Ross, produced 'Let's Dance' for David Bowie and 'Like a Virgin' for Madonna. He has worked with just about every major star, from Michael Jackson and Bob Dylan to Prince and Duran Duran.

But before he reinvented pop music, Nile Rodgers invented himself. Born into a mixed-race family of dopefiend bohemians, he learned - at a very early age - everything he needed to know about love, loss, fashion, art, music, and the subversive power of underground culture. The stars of the scene were his glamorous teenage mom and heroin-addicted Jewish stepfather, but there were also monkeys, voodoo orishas, jazz cats, and contract killers in the mix.

By the age of 16, Nile was busking his way through the 60s, half-hippie and half-Black Panther. He jammed with Jimi Hendrix, took acid with Timothy Leary, toured with Big Bird on Sesame Street's road show, and played guitar behind history's greatest soul singers. And then, one night, he discovered disco.

This was pop's most glamorous and decadent age. Nile Rodgers wrote the songs, produced the hits and lived behind the velvet rope - holding court in the bathroom stalls at Studio 54, club-hopping with Madonna, scarfing down burgers with Diana Ross.

Le Freak is the personal, moving story of a creative genius, told in his own unique voice - warm, intimate and relentlessly charming. It is also a stunning recreation of an age - told by the man who wrote its soundtrack.

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Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco and Destiny + The Chic Organization - Up All Night (The Greatest Hits)
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Sphere (20 Oct 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847443141
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847443144
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 218,061 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


A rich, warm tale of a fascinating life in the golden age of New York and pop --Observer

Book Description

* The astonishing and wildly entertaining memoir of Nile Rodgers: legendary producer and co-founder of the band Chic.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
47 of 47 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Le Freak, C'est Chic 9 Nov 2011
The music of Nile Rogers was the soundtrack to my early adult years. I knew little of the man until I discovered the blog through which he has chronicled his fight with aggressive cancer over the past year.

Beginning with the recollections of a childhood from which few would have emerged unscathed, the narrative moves to Rodgers discovery of a passion and hard earned ability to make music. Influenced by the jazz that had always surrounded his life, he served a musical apprenticeship on Sesame Street before meeting his collaborative partner Bernard Edwards Together their band Chic filled dance floors around the world drawing on influences as diverse as Roxy Music and Kiss.

Chic were soon victims of the abrupt demise of disco but his talent was soon in demand once again on the other side of the mixing desk. An uncanny self belief and ability to distill the essence of popular music led to his first production taking Diana Ross back to the top of the charts and at this point his story and the story of 1980s popular music become one and the same. Working with the fledgling Madonna, a struggling Bowie and his wild nights of excess at Studio 54 are all described with an honesty and openness and which make this an essential read for anyone who wants to get close to one of the most influential musicians of the modern era.

I found Le Freak a compelling read: humorous, sometime shocking, but always engaging and uplifting.

As a postscript, I have been considering why I couldn't quite give five stars when I posted the review (I would have given four and a half if I could). I then heard a radio interview with Niles where he said the original draft was twice as long but his publisher had made him edit it down - The stories in the book are so well told that I am left wondering what gems could have been included in another 150 pages. I'll save the fifth star for the extended 'Nile Rodgers Remix' edition....
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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars GOOD TIMES GUARANTEED !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 10 Nov 2011
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.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Almost as good as Chic 29 Dec 2011
I've just finished this. As one might expect from Nile Rodgers, it's a cut above the average autobiography. He doesn't come across as very likeable during his full-on hedonist phase, to be honest. There also remains the occasional narcissism, hero-worship and self-obsession that one often gets with celebrities. However, in contrast to that, he does come across as very loveable. You can see why so many people were drawn to him. I guess that there was much left out of this account of his life, but everyone is entitled to their secrets. One still gets a sense of honesty in his persistent attempt to provide balanced reflections on what was happening. I also admired his refusal to indulge in self-pity or point-scoring.

The cultural importance of the work of Nile Rodgers and his collaborators in Chic (chiefly Bernard Edwards, of course) has been given insufficient recognition. Rodgers is aware of this but he isn't bitter or resentful to any great degree. His generosity of spirit towards others, regardless of colour or any other aspect of culture or background, is a telling indicator of why he managed to achieve so much. It is also in stark contrast to the casual racism that he and Bernard Edwards had to deal with repeatedly over several decades. That they did so with grace and humour is a testament to their decency and maturity and contrasts with the small-mindedness of many of those they dealt with. Accusations of racism are sometimes bandied about too freely these days, but Rodgers' comments about the impact of racism on Chic's achievements in the field of dance music and music more generally strike me as restrained if anything. The 'Disco Sucks' movement was just the tip of a singularly ugly iceberg.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
A great insight into a very vibrant period of time musically.
A good read.
Published 7 days ago by Ms. Jane Martinez
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great book
Published 10 days ago by Jennifer Fry
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Tremendous book
Published 14 days ago by Everton Purple Warrior
4.0 out of 5 stars Am I glad I'm such a curious person
I used to see Mr Rodgers all the time on music documentaries, always commenting on bands and entertainers from NKOTB to Jimi Hendrix as an avid music lover I was captivated by his... Read more
Published 18 days ago by krazyki999
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating read
Very well written by Nile himself, it's an extraordinary story of a resourceful little boy growing up amongst strung-out jazz junkies, who goes on to pioneer a disco sound and then... Read more
Published 27 days ago by G. F. Wise
5.0 out of 5 stars Unreal autobigraphy
Unreal autobiography. I got this book after my manager recommended it to me, I went to see Nile Rodgers live shortly after so had to buy the book after seeing it. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Hennigar
5.0 out of 5 stars Life Affirming
This is one of the most uplifting books I have ever read.

Funny thing is, I don't believe it was written with a message in mind. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Athan
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
great read
Published 2 months ago by chris barrett
4.0 out of 5 stars Disco Heaven! Great Bio!!
This is a great biog of a musical legend from the late 70's / early 80's. Quite sad in places, it really sums up the high and lows of living and working in the music industry at... Read more
Published 3 months ago by C J. Lafferty
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Brilliant read
Published 3 months ago by K. L. Pearson
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