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Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco and Destiny Hardcover – 20 Oct 2011
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A rich, warm tale of a fascinating life in the golden age of New York and pop --Observer
* The astonishing and wildly entertaining memoir of Nile Rodgers: legendary producer and co-founder of the band Chic.See all Product description
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Funny thing is, I don't believe it was written with a message in mind. It's the gripping biography of the unprivileged, skinny, asthmatic son of a 13 year old girl who left her husband-to-be at the altar because she wanted to live her own life. In the absence of his biological dad Nile Sr. (who drifts in and out of his son's life --and the book-- before succumbing to alcoholism), Nile Rodgers' father figure was a white junkie who worked in the garment district in New York. His mom dragged him to LA and back a couple times, had him sent off age 5 to a sanatorium for asthmatic children, left him a number of times with his two loving but not very vigilant grandmothers, did very little to prevent him from becoming a junkie himself and later in life became his largest supplier of drugs! She regardless emerges from this book as the true love of his life. Throughout this opus she remains the one constant.
That, and music. Because the boy had music. And brains. And a mission (shared with his musical partner Bernard) to discover the Deep Hidden Meaning.
And love for everybody he met.
Nile Rodgers has kind words for EVERYBODY in his autobiography. For his Chic partner Bernard Edwards with whom they traveled so far together, for Andy Warhol, with whom he shared an emergency room, for his grandmothers Goodie and Lenora, their boyfriends (one of whose was a convicted killer, while another gave him his biggest "high" ever when he tuned his first guitar), for his often not very well behaved siblings, for his mom Beverly, for her boyfriends and lovers, he even has good things to say for (yet another) convicted killer who raped his mother.
Aside from his mom, who gets it in spades, and his partner Bernard, adualtion is chiefly meted out to his idols like Diana Ross and David Bowie that he had the privilege to work for, but also to Michael Jackson, who sought his help at a difficult time, and Madonna, with whom he partied.
Ah, the partying. Must confess I don't exactly feel like my sense of partying and Nile Rodgers' have tons in common. He allegedly spent a few years of his life in a stall in the women's bathroom of Studio 54, meting out cocaine to all comers. But there's no denying that the guy did party hard.
The partying almost killed him, and you get the lowdown of how he battled his addiction and how he won, though that's not a big part of the book. This is chiefly a book about family and about music.
Lest we forget, Niles Rodgers gave us "Everybody Dance," "Le Freak," "Good Times," "We are Family," "He's the Greatest Dancer," "Upside Down," "I'm Coming Out," "Let's Dance," "China Girl," "Modern Love," "Wild Boys," "Notorious," "Like a Virgin," "Material Girl," "Love Shack," (I'll forgive him that one) and, of course, "Get Lucky."
There's nobody he hasn't worked with, basically.
Still, the thing I took away from this book, more than the music, more than the partying and more than the amazing story of what determination and talent can do for a young boy that grew up between two ghettos, was the endless optimism that has run through Nile Rodgers' life.
The last paragraph of the book tells us he's now fighting cancer. If anybody on earth can beat it, that will be Nile Rodgers!
That sparked my interest in discovering more about Nile Rodgers. This book is a revealing, frank, sometimes a bit too graphic, but thorough account of a musician who had the most challenging of upbringings and yet continues to have the most spectacular musical success. He always works with top artists. His story is one of battling addiction and coming out of the other side.
This book is also a journey through modern pop music. I loved reading this book and would absolutely recommend it to music fans.
Nile Rodgers may be the most under-recognized talent of this generation. This is a humble, cathartic tale of disadvantage, talent, growth, excess, rejection, regret, hubris, regret, rebirth and ultimately, peace. The only criticisms are the hop, skip and jump about recovering from addiction and the abyss, and the omission/quick passage of the last 14 years. Clearly there was more to talk about, so why leave it out? Part 2? Hope so.
If you're looking for artistic depth and Rodgers' own "DHM" (you'll need to read the book to decode the success-cypher), there isn't one, so don't buy this book. If you're looking for sincere, engaging, fast-paced narrative, sprinkled with people and events you can identify with, you'll love it. Buy it!
Chic, Sister Sledge, Diana Ross's comeback album, Bowie's comeback album, Madonna's launch album, Duran Duran's last good album; Rodgers was the guru behind all these and more. He changed disco, funk and perhaps even rap and helped them to infuse the music that came afterwards. As a black artist he marked himself out as cross-cultural and way ahead of most curves.
This is an intelligent, thoughtful book free of the egomania that you'd expect from a man with his extraordinary CV. He tires towards the end of his story, skipping years in a few sentences (hence four stars), but we'll forgive him that given how many drugs he claims to have downed. A well-composed and sometimes amusing read that was, bravely, penned by the man himself. It turns out he can write well too - is there anything this guy can't do?
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