Grammy award-winning songwriter and guitarist Nile Rodgers has had quite the history with New York Dance clubs. Influenced by its culture, he began establishing an illustrious career, spanning from the 70’s to present day. Always the musical renaissance man, he has produced timeless classics such as “Le Freak” and “Good Times” with his band Chic, and more recently collaborated with notable artists such as Daft Punk and Pharrell on “Get Lucky,” for which he received three Grammies, and recently collaborated with singer John Newman and DJ Sigala on the track “Give Me Your Love.”
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, the musical luminary discusses the importance of dance club culture and weighs in on both the murder of Christina Grimmie and the shootings at the nightclub Pulse, both in Orlando.
Nile recalls the first time he stepped foot into a dance club despite having reservations. Yet despite associating with a different genre of music, the dance community welcomed them with open arms.
“I didn’t quite analyze it so thoroughly because we were just having so much fun learning the dances that they were doing—they were doing the Hustle. When my girlfriend and I stumbled into that first club, we would have been the outsiders. We were the jazzers who wouldn’t have fit in normally, but we fit in right away. There was not even an ounce of resistance. This was one of the most important characteristics of the disco movement. It was so inclusive. You never felt uncomfortable. No matter the label, whether it was a gay disco or a hardcore Italian disco with tough guys, you’d still be welcome.”
At a time in history where social tensions were high, Rodgers recalls that communities that let you express yourself without limitation, and those were invaluable. Discussing the idea of how society makes us feel boxed in to certain stereotypes, dance clubs possessed the ability to draw an eclectic crowd where judgment was virtually absent.
“People were drawn to clubs because they were real…You could relax. You could release. You could forget about your surroundings. You could forget about the statement society forces you to make in your personal life, and you could make a new one. You could come up with your own definition and find your own sense of style.”
Reflecting on the tragedies hat occurred over the weekend in Orlando, Rodgers reveals he has plans of releasing new material that is partially inspired by these past events. In addition, he addresses the idea that it is truly a shame that a community where one was meant to feel safe and uninhibited, a ‘liberated territory’ as he calls it, was targeted in such a violent manner.
“I was working on a song last night that was sympathetic to the incident that just happened in Orlando. When I was younger—I grew up during the Vietnam War—we had this concept of places that were safe. If you were a black person, there were certain neighborhoods you didn’t go to. If you were a hippie, there were neighborhoods you didn’t go to otherwise bikers would beat you up. It was called liberated territories. That’s what I started writing about: the concept of liberated territory.
“I had been thinking of Christina Grimmie, the woman from The Voice who had been shot. I heard she was giving love to fans and welcoming people with open arms. Then a few hours later I heard about the incredible tragedy at Pulse—and it was in the same city. Clubs were liberated territories, too. There’s nothing in life that you do that’s celebratory that doesn’t include music. We always had those places that were special. I used to live in subways. My cousin used to live in subway tunnels. For some people, it feels safer to live on the streets, so you find your liberated territory. You find a space that feels like your space. Sometimes you walk into a club, and it’s just your spot. You can tell right away. It feels better and better, and you come back the next weekend and the next. There are places that just feel like home to you.”