47 of 47 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Le Freak, C'est Chic
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...
Published on 9 Nov 2011 by T. Jones
3.0 out of 5 stars Thin on the main event.
Enjoyed the detail of Nile as a youngster. However I feel perhaps the marching powder took its toll on the memory as the detail or stories around the Chic good times were thin on the ground and that period was over in a flash. Just too few anecdotes to make it a rivetting read.
Published 14 months ago by Mr. Robert Wells
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant,
One of the best books of any genre that I've read in years. Absolutely fascinating from start to finish---even if you're not a fan of Nile's music, his story is interesting and told interestingly, with humility. You could even argue that the tale gets less interesting once he hits the bigtime---his childhood has to be heard to be believed! Can't recommend this enough. Top marks.
5.0 out of 5 stars What a storey,
I saw someone on holiday reading this and we had quite a discussion on Nile Rogers and Chic i couldnt wait to read his storey ,what a remarkable life he has lead , the book left me hanging as to his health now but i recently saw him on Sky news while abroad so i hope he is well ,a true genoius.
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant!,
I was a little too young to appreciate Chic back in the day, being maybe 6 or 7 years old at the time, but since then I've grown to love their music, especially the likes of "Freak Out!" and "Everybody Dance". What I didn't realise however was what an interesting and sometimes harrowing life Nile Rodgers has had.
As with most autobiographies the book starts with childhood, and Nile describes his drug addict parents, and how he was sent across America to stay with relatives and so on, clearly older than his years, and he developed a love for music which eventually led to his career with Chic, plus as a songwriter and producer. It's a fascinating story and a surprisingly gripping read, and I found myself singing some of those songs to myself as he described their creation. Yes, the book is rather anecdotal at times ("and then we produced Diana Ross... and then I produced David Bowie... and then...") but aren't all autobiographies like that?
If I was to criticise the book does seem to end rather suddenly, with Nile's cancer diagnosis (literally on the last page, along the lines of "yesterday I was told I had cancer, and I'm going to see the doctor today.") but as this diagnosis was some time ago - 2010 - I'm surprised there was nothing more after this, maybe an afterword, or an extra bit added to the text to say what happened next, but that aside it was a thoroughly entertaining read. If you like music biographies and enjoy Nile's work, give it a go.
4.0 out of 5 stars Yowzer, yowzer, yowzer!,
Drugs, drugs, drugs, drink, glue, girls, cars, drugs......and made some of the best dance records ever, and produced Lets Dance and produced Like a Virgin, and lives to tell the tale. Yowzer!
5.0 out of 5 stars Mr. Rodgers brings the funk!,
I love a good autobiography, having read Quincy Jones' in the past. Nile tells us the story behind his biggest hits, and how certain things came about - seriously - can you imagine David Bowie doing folksy version of "Let's Dance"? For me Nile Rodgers' style has been a soundtrack to my life, with those too tight grooves from "Le Freak" and "Good Times" - you just can't get enough... His beginnings are sad. But you can see where he came from, he has seen tragedy and he's seen triumph, and it doesn't stop him. He's a legend and having read his book now I have even more respect for him, not just as a fellow musician but as a fellow human being.
In this book, you'll be surprised at what music he's been involved in, and the stuff we're influenced by today resonates from what he and Chic were doing in the 70's and 80's - breakdowns, extended musical passages - all that originated in big funky recording sessions and burst out onto the dancefloors around the world. God bless you Nile, keep it coming. Thankyou.
5.0 out of 5 stars Memories Old And New,
It was fantastic to read about the beginnings of a band I used to dance to at school disco's, through to Nile's development as a creative artist and his productivity. A great insight, and a thumping good read - especially if you're involved in anything to do with music. Or gossip. Everybody here at NakedBeforeTheWorld.com loved it... Andrew BW.
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read,
This was a great read for me. Nile Rodgers tells it like it is in this no nonsense, no punches pulled auto biography of his rise to fame, and working with the industries top musicians.
5.0 out of 5 stars Unreal autobigraphy,
This review is from: Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco and Destiny (Paperback)
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.
Such an incredible story and fantastically told. It's nothing but a thoroughly enjoyable read form an great entertainer.
7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Chic's Frontman Tells All...well, sort of. LE FREAK, The Autobiography of Nile Rodgers: A Critical Review,
Put on your red shoes and dance the blues...
To the songs they're playin' on the radio"
***** ****** ********
It seems like a lifetime ago when, barely a teenager, I heard the melodic "a[...] out!" in my bedroom while doing my homework. It would be an excuse to take a break and dance to a music that was now blaring out at many levels higher.
Chic--a quintet (at its pinnacle)--consisted of production team Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards. LE FREAK is Rodgers' life story from his formative years in the ghettos of NYC and Los Angeles to his life as a vagabond in Manhattan's "Hell's Kitchen" to his venture into music culminating with his life as one of the music industry's most successful producers.
Rodgers' story is a 300-page tell-all that is, at times, equal parts journey into the underbelly of illicit drugs, unstable home life and extreme poverty and, on the other hand, to the material fortunes and the clandestine soirees of hedonism that come with producing and selling millions of albums for himself and others. But, this is not your typical memoir by any stretch. Nor, is it a typical tell-all, confessional drawn from a contrite soul who lived a life without any concern for consequences.
**** ******* *******
Rodgers life starts out tragic: a family member, the most secured male figure in his life has just passed away and the family is rushing to celebrate Thanksgiving dinner with him one last time before they finally say goodbye.
Thanksgiving dinner is of particular importance to the Rodgers family because it is the time when individuals feel free to expose their deepest secrets. And, over the course of the first 100 pages, we're treated to an explicit account of growing up in a drug-infested home of his mother "Beverly" and her primary paramour, Bobby. His grandmothers, his sibling and a host of guests who frequent their home to partake of various hard-core drugs and binges. Along the way, we'll meet his father and the incident that Rodgers contributes to the emotional breakdown of the man who gave him his musical gift.
To make matters worse, there were frequent cross-country relocation trips that only did nothing more than to show that the ghetto life of NYC mirrored the ghetto life in Los Angeles. The bright spot for me was the relative stability of Rodgers' grandmothers who, for the most part, gave him some semblance of what a normal family life could be. But, those moments were always temporary.
Rodgers would eventually and permanently stay in NYC where he'd run away at 16 and live like a vagabond. Those lonely train rides led him to a commune and to a sub-sub culture where various elements and "revolutionaries" informed his inquiring mind. At this time, Rodgers found himself playing the guitar for change and through a friend would get hired playing music for the television show, Sesame Street.
Sesame Street led to The Apollo Theater and before long he and fellow journeyman musician Bernard Edwards became session players often contracting and working alongside studio singers like Luther Vandross. (I was surprised to learn that most of Chic's hit singles had Vandross singing on them.)
Rodgers and Edwards created Chic and the stories about how the hit songs came to be are quite amusing to say the least.
The stretch of hit singles came to an end when a disgruntled d.j, whom lost his job at a station that had just changed formats to accommodate the disco craze provoke a riot at a baseball stadium. Rodgers felt that Chic was fairly singled out as the problem why rock bands weren't being heard by their audience. All of sudden, Top 40 radio as well as industry parties began to distance themselves from anything remotely sounding like disco and the Chic-sound.
In the end, a disbanded Chic left Rodgers and Edwards producing other acts, most notably Diana Ross.
Diana Ross owed Motown one last record and Motown executive Suzanne de Passe was charged with the task of making this product as successful as possible. It was at Chic's last concert in Santa Monica and just after finishing their last (and #1) song, "Good Times" when the band raced back to the dressing room. de Passe walked to their dressing room and casually introduces Miss Ross who was in attendance that night. She felt that the two men could give Ross the album that would change Ross' fortunes.
The album that Rodgers and Edwards would eventually produce for Ross (and would become, coincidentally, her biggest success) had everything to do with the inspiration Rodgers would have because of his penchant for gay clubs and the gay culture.
This is not a spurious point. Throughout his telling of Chic, and subsequently his own personal success as a producer, Rodgers' would casually bring up that he was here and he was there for reasons unspoken and he tells of quite a few lurid stories of himself in peculiar situations and yet spends an excessive amount of time afterwards reminding us of his voracious appetites for women. The most striking being how Mr. Rodgers finds himself perusing gay clubs in the early 80's and in one place he's surrounded by Diana Ross-looking transvestites in a men's bathroom yet to feel compelled to tell the reader a few pages later of a moment where he was insulted when he was propositioned by a famous personality (whom he doesn't name) and her husband. After these moments, Rodgers would again tell us how he did this drug and how he did this woman at this place.
This bringing up, seemingly, inconsequential moments followed by blunt recounts of female conquest begs the question, What's your point? The point of sex, drugs and rock n roll was made and repeated literally dozens of times before then.
All of this notwithstanding, the biggest success for Rodgers and Edwards came after the success of Ross' record. For Edwards, the highpoint was Robert Palmer. For Rodgers, it was David Bowie and Madonna. Two people, we'd read, that Rodgers wouldn't have the most cordial of recollections of afterwards, despite the monumental success together.
But, a life-altering moment comes one morning after a long night of binging. He stumbled into his building and pressed the 14th floor button although he lived on the 28th. On the way up, his heart stopped. His limp body fell against the elevator doors which opened on to a floor that just happened to have a janitor waiting right there to go down.
There's a little bit more to Rodgers story including the death of his partner Edwards in Japan after Rodgers received a coveted "Producer of The Year" award. And, sadly, Rodgers admission that he's suffering from cancer.
****** ******** ********
I've always loved Chic's music. Still do. And, discovering that a founding member was writing a memoir about this time thrilled me. But, I'm less than impressed with him. Not because of upbringing. Not because of his success. Not because of his promiscuous lifestyle (we all have our less than flattering moments that we're ashamed of) but one of intent.
Is Rodgers confused about the music scene or is he deliberately obscuring details. Remember, this was the early 80's not the 2nd decade of the new millennium.
There are two different ways to tell of the success of disco and the demise of disco/ ascension of rap-hip hop music. One, as Rodgers insinuates was a conflation of music that was popular with a broad cross section of "urban" listeners that splintered after the backlash. And, the other was which was how I remembered it growing up in NY at the time.
In that time during the late 70's early 80's, you had the urban audience which was primarily (East Coast) black and Puerto Rican youth. This was WBLS and eventually WKRS (KISS FM) and you're talking straight R&B: Chic, Sister Sledge, Teddy Pendegrass, LTD, Donna Summer, Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind and Fire, Stephanie Mills, The Commodores. Every once and awhile you may hear a song by the Bee Gees but not often. Groups like The Four Tops, The Temptation and The Spinners were just fading from their heydays. When there were parties or events, you went to places like The Roxy, The Funhouse and later, The Disco Fever up in The Bronx.
Now, to be sure, many of these artists had cross-over success. So, they'd have different audiences buying their music with no interest to artists who played similar music. This was why, for example, you'd hear Stevie Wonder's music on rock radio, for a time. Or, you'd hear Van Halen's "Jump" on black radio.
Then you what they called "Club Music." (In The 90's, it would be called, "House Music.") This was not rock, but it wasn't pop either. It was fast, dance music mixed with lyrics from that you could dance to and much of it was European imported. The only station in New York that catered to Club music was WKTU and a d.j. by the name of "Paco." But, you rarely heard of those groups that did "Club" music outside of being played on KTU unless you went to one of those clubs. One of the few that came from that environment were people like Madonna, The System, Colonel Abrams but they "crossed" over to urban radio. It was the music and not necessarily the lyrics that were most important. It was here that you'd find a less "urban" crowd, more racially diverse, but definitely less "urban" as they'd say. You also had a sub- culture which was the place where gays hung out: Studio 54, Paradise Garage, etc. In those days, you chose where you hung out. So, there was no mistaking where you were and what your intentions were. And, Rodgers says that things were going on around him but doesn't say exactly why he's there despite the fact that he would bring up these moments with no point to make. And, he happens to be there at the earliest parts of the morning. Go figure.
Now, I would take titillating and maybe even salacious if it warrant it over pretention any day. But, my predilection for honesty doesn't mean that I should be asked to accept everything that's said. That is to say, you've gone to the trouble to spend the 1st hundred pages talking about most of the important people around you who've been in some way connected to the most dangerous of illegal drugs only to insinuate that because of this you were somehow destined to immerse yourself in this habit.
I marveled at his ability to be an independent thinker throughout the course of his life but have been scratching my head at the suggestion that he is somehow weak-minded when it come to illicit activities.
Many years later, after the Chic disbands and after the successful production of Madonna and Bowie, Rodgers writes, "Part of my problem may have been the company I was keeping. The after-hours scene, once the height of glamour was no longer exciting to me. And, though the drugs flowed like river, I could never get enough. Consequently, I started hanging out with more people in the drug trade." I'm not quite following the logic. This doesn't sound like a grown man. You choose the company you keep. You don't have to keep anyone's company, you're independently wealthy and successful.
There were also things he brought up and then left hanging such as his relationship with Oprah. He said that Oprah referred to him as her "younger brother, " although he was older. But then, abruptly said Oprah wasn't interested in his friendship anymore. Why? What would make her feel this way?
What happened between him and Madonna (and we're not talking about his showing up and doing a coke line with Mickey Rouke in her bathroom) but just after he completed work on her second album, "Like A Virgin"? Why wasn't he offered a gig to do a follow-up?
David Bowie refused to acknowledge his contribution to Bowie's "Let Dance" album in subsequent press interviews. Why? Even after so many years and many more album produced by others, why was Rodgers snubbed on the accolades due to him?
There's more to this than he stating.
But, all in all, LE FREAK is a fascinating and sometimes heart-wrenching read about a man (and a group of people) who believed their music could change the world.
And, in some small way, it did.
7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Half a story,
Le Freak is the story of a survivor, one that details a difficult and sometimes dangerous childhood, an adulthood dominated by fabulous success, sex and drugs. But we only get half the story as Rodgers chooses to concentrate on anecdote and not relationships: we get lots of little stories about how he did this and did that, who he did, what drugs he did, etc. While the book encompasses the arc of his life he's not a master storyteller by any means, and much of it feels patched together and heavily edited. We get shadowy depictions of his major successes and conquests with little reflection, and as the reader moves from incident to incident you begin to ask "what's the point?" At many moments Le Freak reads like an obligatory public confessional, something dished out to fans who'd like a bit of titillation and shades of schadenfreude.
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Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco and Destiny by Nile Rodgers (Paperback - 5 July 2012)