Nile Rodgers on highs, lows and getting lucky

January 29, 2021. Series 3. Episode 18

Our guest for episode 18 is the legendary writer, performer, producer and all-round genius Nile Rodgers. Nile is perhaps best known as the co-creator of Chic and the producer of an incomparable list of classic albums by artists including David Bowie, Madonna and Diana Ross. More recently he’s collaborated with Sam Smith, Disclosure and Daft Punk. All of this resulting in 500million worldwide album sales, 75million singles and multiple Grammy Awards. But Nile’s life, from birth, has seen a litany of crises interwoven with stellar  success. An upbringing of continual drama, addictions, grief and cancer are just some of the mountains he’s climbed throughout a truly astonishing 68years. Nile, who is also the creator of the brilliant We Are Family Foundation, talks with captivating candour, humour and passion about his life as a music legend and crisis manager.

Nile’s Crisis Cures:

1. Work: I go to my guitar, my music, my art and look towards my work. I say to myself – I need to get better because this person needs my help. For me having a job to do makes me feel I have to be subordinate to the situation rather than be subordinate to my own ego.

2. Simple exercises: I do simple things to make my body and brain aware. I’ll give you an example – I’m training my left hand to snap my finger.

3. Music: John Coltrane – A Love Supreme. Not even a thought – my go to crisis song since a teenager. It puts me in a space where right away, the world becomes a peaceful place. If they put me in front of a firing squad and asked me for my last cigarette or last meal – I’d be like “No man! Just play the start of Love Supreme and you guys shoot away!”


We Are Family Foundation:

Nile’s book:

Nile’s website:

Episode notes:

I’m not entirely sure how to reflect on my conversation with Nile. From the off, it was clear that I was in the presence of greatness. The legendary musical status needs no explanation …. just put his name into Spotify and see what you get. A breath-taking catalogue. But it was Nile’s extraordinary openness – his willingness to share his thoughts on the difficult moments of his life that at times left me open mouthed. That he was doing so whilst living another, painful crisis following his mother’s death, made those reflections all the more powerful. As Nile came to realise during our conversation, he is a crisis manager. But it’s not entirely selfless work. Solving or easing his and others problems is a form of therapy for him – it’s what’s got him through his own challenges too. And there have been plenty. There were so many words of wisdom to remember from this podcast but, for me, Nile’s near life-long credo is the unforgettable winner:  He said: “I saw Ben-Hur as a child and will never forget when the commander tells the galley slaves ‘You live to serve the ship. Row well and live.’  And that’s what I do … I row well, live and every day do my best to get the ship to port.”

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