Guest opinion: This disco group rose above the backlash | Guest columns

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In December, HBO aired the documentary “The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart,” which recounted how the British group faced professional and personal hardships in the wake of the anti-disco backlash, despite a impressive series from 1975. -79 which included eight No.1 hits and five Top 20 hits, not to mention writing and producing No.1 hits for other bands such as Andy Gibb, Frankie Valli and Yvonne Elliman. In this Black History Month, audiences should be aware that successful disco group Chic has also felt the anti-disco backlash, but their determination and immense talents have allowed them to rise above the crowd. discriminate against disco acts to become some of the biggest players. in the music world of the 80s. Chic’s success story deserves to be mentioned along with all the other African-American accomplishments that will be cited this month in the media.

Two years ago, something went unnoticed in the media: the 40th anniversary of a strange and memorable event, the infamous anti-disco rally at Comiskey Park on July 12, 1979, between matches on a double-sided program of the White Sox. Promoted as “Disco Demolition Night” with ever-popular disco music in the summer of 1979, the White Sox hoped to fill seats with this promotion, led by Chicago shock Steve Dahl, to bring rock fans into the limelight. bringing both 98 cents and a disco record to destroy. Tens of thousands of Dahl fans surprisingly showed up and stormed the pitch after shattering records. The White Sox were forced to forfeit Game 2 against the Detroit Tigers.

This high-profile 1979 incident is believed to be responsible for accelerating the end of the popularity of disco songs on the American airwaves. One group that had many disco hits was Chic, comprising guitarist Nile Rodgers, bassist Bernard Edwards, drummer Tony Thompson, and vocalists Luci Martin and Norma Jean Wright. Between 1977 and 1979, Chic had five Top 40 hits, including the Top 10 “Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)” and “I Want Your Love”. Their 1979 No.1 hit “The Freak” remained in number one for six weeks, and their hit “Good Times” topped the charts in August 1979 and was the last big hit of the disco era.

Nile Rodgers has said in interviews that after Chic disbanded in the very early 1980s, he would call to speak to record directors and be turned away due to the disco connection. However, Chic’s three core members – Nile Rodgers, Bernard Edwards, and Tony Thompson – would move beyond the disco backlash to become major players in both the rock and pop stages. During the Chic days, Rodgers and Edwards wrote and produced hits for Sister Sledge, specifically “We Are Family” and “He’s the Greatest Dancer,” which also featured the Rodgers, Edwards and Thompson trio as musicians. Soon this trio will be working with Diana Ross, as the Rodgers / Edwards team wrote and produced their 1980 album “Diana” featuring the musical magic of Rodgers / Edwards / Thompson on guitar, bass and bass. battery, respectively. This effort resulted in the Top 10 “I’m Coming Out” and “Upside Down”, which reached number 1 and remained there for the four weeks of September 1980.

Separating in the early 1980s, Rodgers and Edwards produced albums by several big names, including Tony Thompson on drums. Edwards set up The Power Station, with Duran Duran’s John and Andy Taylor, Thompson on drums and Robert Palmer as lead singer. Edwards and Thompson produced the band’s very successful debut album. Edwards went on to produce Palmer’s 1985 album “Riptide”, which resulted in the international hit “I Didn’t Mean to Turn You On”, as well as the # 1 hit “Addicted to Love”, one of most famous videos in MTV history. . “Riptide” also featured Tony Thompson pounding skins. Edwards also produced albums for Adam Ant, Rod Stewart, Duran Duran, Diana Ross and ABC, and died in 1996 at the age of 43.

Likewise, the work that Nile Rodgers has done as a producer is too vast to be covered in full. He produced the phenomenally successful David Bowie album “Let’s Dance” in 1983, with hits “Let’s Dance”, “Modern Love” and “China Girl”, as well as Madonna’s groundbreaking 1984 album “Like a Virgin “which contained the world number 1. hit “Like a Virgin” as well as Top 5 hits “Material Girl”, “Angel”, “Into the Groove” and “Dress You Up”. Rodgers would go on to produce a host of albums by major artists such as Mick Jagger, The B-52’s, Lady Gaga, Christina Aguilera and Jeff Beck. The album “Like a Virgin” was actually kind of a classy reunion, as it recruited Bernard Edwards to play bass on the tracks and Thompson to handle the drums.

Tony Thompson, who died of cancer in 2003 at the age of 48, was one of the greatest rock drummers of all time and probably doesn’t get the credit he deserves due to his disco background . Of course, an African American may not be taken seriously as a rock drummer, as some African American drummers have been categorized into the pop or disco genres. His work in projects with Rodgers and Edwards led him to work on some of the best rock albums of the 1980s. Also, what didn’t get much attention was that he played with Led Zeppelin in front of the world at the 1985 Live Aid concert, with Phil Collins as another drummer. Phil Collins got all the hype because he started the Live Aid concert in London and then flew the Concorde to Philadelphia to perform on stage.

Classy songs and songs involving Chic staff are regularly played on classic rock, vintage, easy-listening, and even modern pop stations. Chic refused to let the anti-disco backlash prevent them from achieving wonderful success as writers, producers and musicians in many genres. Reports abound today from North Korea and Cuba, two nations with strictly government-controlled radio stations. In the United States, you could say that FM radio is controlled to some extent by Chic, as throughout the day songs with Chic connections, as well as Chic disco songs themselves, are constantly heard on all types of radio stations.

The writer is the blogmaster of BeatlesHistorian.com, is a business co-owner at Mystic, and is a public relations strategist in Avon, Conn.


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