Nile Rodgers isn't a household name, but he's the man behind some of the best – and most important – dance music of all time. It's almost impossible to be alive today and not know his music.
Rodgers is best known as the guitarist, co-founder, and primary songwriter of Chic, one of the most popular and influential bands of the disco era.
Rodgers' guitar style is unmistakable, but widely imitated. If you close your eyes and imagine what a disco guitar part sounds like, you automatically just imagine something like his riffs.
Chic's first smash hit was "Everybody Dance" in 1977...
Chic, "Everybody Dance"
...and "Le Freak" was a No. 1 hit in 1978.
Chic, "Le Freak"
Chic solidified their status as the best disco band of all time in 1979 with "Good Times." If Rodgers never did another thing in his life, he would be a legend just for Chic's body of work.
Chic, "Good Times"
But later that year, the Sugarhill Gang adapted the groove from "Good Times" for "Rapper's Delight," the very first hip-hop single. Rodgers was instrumental in the creation of an entire new genre of music.
Sugarhill Gang, "Rapper's Delight"
Around the same time, Rodgers began co-writing, producing, and performing on songs for other acts. He wrote huge disco hits for Sister Sledge...
Sister Sledge, "We Are Family"
...and gave the legendary Diana Ross a disco makeover on her smash hit album Diana in 1980.
Diana Ross, "Upside Down"
These collaborations also became the basis of major rap songs years later. "He's the Greatest Dancer" begat "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It"...
Sister Sledge, "He's the Greatest Dancer"
Will Smith, "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It"
...and "I'm Coming Out" became "Mo Money, Mo Problems."
Diana Ross, "I'm Coming Out"
The Notorious B.I.G. featuring Puffy Daddy and Mase, "Mo Money, Mo Problems"
Rodgers teamed up with David Bowie in 1983 to produce Let's Dance. The record became one of Bowie's greatest commercial successes, and the title track is now one of his most famous tunes.
David Bowie, "Let's Dance"
He also was called in to produce INXS's song "Original Sin," which was the band's first major hit in the United States.
INXS, "Original Sin"
Rodgers was also crucial in Duran Duran's career – he produced "The Reflex" and "Notorious," two of their biggest hits.
Duran Duran, "The Reflex"
Duran Duran, "Notorious"
His work on Madonna's second album, Like A Virgin, cemented his reputation as one of the greatest producers of the '80s. That album pushed Madonna to superstar status with the era-defining smashes "Like A Virgin" and "Material Girl."
Madonna, "Like A Virgin"
Rodgers has produced dozens of other records, including collaborations with Grace Jones, Al Jarreau, Stevie Winwood, and Cyndi Lauper. In 1989, he co-produced The B-52's comeback album Cosmic Thing, which features the immortal "Love Shack."
The B-52's, "Love Shack"
Rodgers has kept active over the years with more production work and tours with Chic. He occasionally takes time out of his busy schedule to give people pointers on how to emulate his distinctive guitar style.
At some point a few years ago, the robots of Daft Punk found an old Chic record and were inspired to invite Rodgers to collaborate with them on their album Random Access Memories.
That resulted in "Get Lucky," a song featuring Pharrell that became Daft Punk's biggest chart hit ever. Rodgers played on three other songs on the album too, which has introduced his genius to a whole new generation of fans.