After defying nearly every rock’n’roll convention imaginable in the 1970s, David Bowie set out to make an album that would harken back to rock’s past while remaining timeless—an album of hits that anyone could appreciate. To help him create what we now know as 1983’s Let’s Dance, he recruited Chic mastermind Nile Rodgers, a musical genius who was then being hit hard by the disco backlash. The unlikely pair succeeded beyond their most extravagant dreams, and Let’s Dance remains Bowie’s best-selling album to date. The two teamed up once again on the hip-hop and jazz-inspired 1993 album Black Tie White Noise, but they will forever be associated with their world-beating first collaboration.
This morning, we spoke with Rodgers to discuss the making of Let’s Dance, his last interaction with Bowie, and what he learned from the legend about being an artist.
Pitchfork: Were you aware that David was sick?
Nile Rodgers: No. Though I knew something was wrong. A few years ago, the board of directors of my charity foundation, We Are Family, decided to give me an award, so I reached out to Bowie to ask if he would present it to me. He said, "I can’t be there, but I will do something for you." So he made a video and sent it to me, and it was great. I just felt the love.