Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco, and Destiny
Rodger writes an interesting memoir. He doesn’t write it very well, but that isn’t why I love reading Music biographies. I read them for the behind the scene view of the business of music and insights to creativity. For that this book certainly succeeds. Rodger also has a story to tell about family, perseverance, and drugs. His family life was a disaster. It was only music that saved him from the same life his junkie parents had. And yet his success in music also gave him the resources to abuse drugs and drink in ways his junkie family and friends never dreamed about. Rodger’s descent into drugs and his story of getting clean are interesting, but I was more interested in the music. Rodger delivers with interesting accounts of building Chic with his partner Bernard Edwards, and then his success as a producer after the Disco Era was over. I knew of his various projects, nothing was a surprise there, but once you see the list of names in one spot, it brings home the fact that Rodgers was pivotal to the popular music business.
Excerpts From My Kindle
The first single, “Upside Down,” was different from anything we’d written before. Its structure was angular and its groove’s chords were staccato, this time without a smooth keyboard pad underneath, unlike our past hits. We started the song with the hook, like almost all Chic songs do, but cut to the verse with a modulating chromatic progression. It was a complex but interesting way of performing this unorthodox but simple key change. We included excessively polysyllabic words like “instinctively” and “respectfully” in the lyrics, because we wanted to utilize Diana’s sophistication to achieve a higher level of musicality. Along with the complicated verse, we deliberately made the chorus rhythmically more difficult to sing than the catchier, one-listen song hooks for Chic. – location 2421-27
Here’s the dizzying account of artists I worked with during that wild ride, in no particular order: the Thompson Twins, Steve Winwood, the B-52’s, Sheena Easton, Cyndi Lauper, Hall & Oats, Grace Jones, Mick Jagger, the Honeydrippers (with Robert Plant), David Lee Roth, Depeche Mode, Jeff Beck, Ric Ocasek, the Vaughan Brothers, Jimmie Vaughan, Bryan Ferry, Southside Johnny, the Dan Reed Network, Sister Sledge, Paul Simon, Al Jarreau, Michael Jackson, Michael Gregory Jackson, Laurie Anderson, Peter Gabriel, Philip Bailey, Diana Ross, Stray Cats, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, David Bowie, Paul Young, Wet Wet Wet, Toshi Kubota, Seal, Marta Sanchez, Slash, Taja Sevelle, Spoons, Lorelie McBroom, Mariah Carey, David Sanborn, Samantha Cole, Will Powers, Christopher Max, Kim Carnes, Jenny Burton, the System, Carole Davis, Terry Gonzalez, Outloud, Paula Abdul, SMAP, the Southern All-Stars, Claude Nougaro, and my own solo projects. This list is not complete; it’s just to give you a sense of scale. On each of these records, all of which I still vividly remember, my role was basically always the same. I was the guy managing and working around problems and variables, from the songs to the equipment to the personnel. – location 3608-16
He looked me square in the eye and asked if I had a drug problem. “No,” I said. “I just go to a lot of parties.” “Then why do you buy so much coke?” “I want people to like me, so I share it with everybody.” “Do me a favor.” “What?” “The next time you go to a party, buy a bag of gold ingots and give ’em away. Gold only costs three hundred bucks an ounce and cocaine is three thousand an ounce,” he said. “I guarantee that if you give people gold instead of blow, they’ll really like you. And you’ll save a hell of a lot of money.” – location 3790-95