NILE RODGERS

The Chic leg­end looks back on a life­time of cheat­ing death over Abbey Road chilli.

Q (UK) - - Incoming - DAVE EVERLEY

Nile Rodgers is con­nected. Not in a mil­lion-fol­low­ers-onIn­sta­gram fash­ion, but in an hon­est-to-God, you-knowwho? way that puts him at the very cen­tre of pop­u­lar cul­ture. The list of guests on It’s About Time, the first al­bum in 26 years from his band Chic, reads like a direc­tory of pop, new and old: El­ton John, Janelle Monáe, Craig David and St­ef­flon Don. But he bats away any sug­ges­tion that he’s the most hooked-up per­son in mu­sic. “Nah man, it’s prob­a­bly Bey­oncé and Jay Z,” he says. We’re lunch­ing in the court­yard of Abbey Road Stu­dios in North Lon­don. An over­hang­ing tree pro­vides scant re­lief from the sun, and he inches around the ta­ble in an at­tempt to stay in what shade there is. Over the next hour Rodgers will to­tally un­der­mine his own as­ser­tion that there are peo­ple out there with bet­ter con­tact books than him. The 65- year-old re­gales Q with tales of crack­ing jokes with Stephen Hawk­ing (“He took 10 min­utes to get to the punch­line, but when he did it was so funny”), “mak­ing out” with Madonna on her 36th birth­day (“To her it was a joke. To me, I don’t know what it was. That was the night I quit drugs for good”) and rub­bing shoul­ders with an ob­nox­ious prop­erty mag­nate named Don­ald J Trump in the ’ 80s. “Oh, I met him a lot back then,” says Rodgers. “But when he’d sit at your ta­ble, you’d go to the bath­room cos he was a jerk.” He’s spent a lot of time at Abbey Road in re­cent months, record­ing much of It’s About Time here. In April, he was ap­pointed the stu­dio’s first Chief Cre­ative Ad­vi­sor. His plate is piled with food from the stu­dio can­teen: freshly cooked beef chilli, a pile of salad leaves, toma­toes. Healthy eat­ing helps him stay on top of his diabetes, one of sev­eral health is­sues he’s faced re­cently. “I had a sec­ondary bout of can­cer last year, which seems to have gone,” says Rodgers, who was first di­ag­nosed with the dis­ease in 2010. Lean and healthy to­day, he has the air of a man who’s not plan­ning on go­ing any­where any time soon. But when he does fi­nally check out, he can do so know­ing his has been a life well lived. Fifty years ago, he was a skinny, mar­tial arts-fix­ated kid who had just signed up for the Har­lem chap­ter of the Black Pan­ther party. “Cos I knew goju karate, they asked me to train ev­ery­body,” he says. “So I did. And I got pro­moted to sub-sec­tion leader that day.” Rodgers and his fel­low Pan­thers worked as community ac­tivists. “We’d dis­trib­ute food that would have been thrown away to kids who were so poor they couldn’t af­ford to eat.” A decade later, he found him­self in the epi­cen­tre of the disco ex­plo­sion with Chic. Hero­ically de­bauched New York night­club Stu­dio 54 was his sec­ond home – or, more specif­i­cally, the women’s bath­room was. “I would spend the whole night in there. I can still smell the per­fume. Then af­ter the club closed, we’d go up­stairs to Steve’s Rubell, owner] of­fice and do drugs. That was fun.” Rodgers was an en­thu­si­as­tic con­sumer of nar­cotics. Too en­thu­si­as­tic some­times. He reck­ons he’s over­dosed and “died” eight times. “First time, I woke up and thought, ‘Who re­dec­o­rated my apart­ment with flu­o­res­cent lights?’ I didn’t know I was in hospi­tal.” He re­calls a doc­tor telling him that if he couldn’t stop get­ting high for him­self, he should stop get­ting high for the peo­ple who worked hard to save him. “I thought, ‘Wow, you’re right’,” he says. “And I didn’t take a drink or drug for two weeks.” An­other brush with death came at home a few weeks ago. Rodgers was run­ning up­stairs to his stu­dio when he tripped over a step. “I hit the bridge of my nose at a 90 de­gree an­gle,” he says. “Poosh, blood ev­ery­where. The doc­tors said one inch lower and I’d have lost my teeth, one inch higher and I’d be gone.” His plate is al­most empty and he’s run out of shade. His man­ager stands be­hind him, try­ing to get his at­ten­tion. Rodgers is work­ing with a young Bri­tish singer-song­writer named Kyan and there are up­com­ing Chic shows to think about. “I like to keep busy,” he says with a grin. “Keep my­self out of trou­ble.” There’s mu­sic to play and peo­ple to con­nect with. The Grim Reaper will have to wait a while longer yet.

“I would spend the whole night in the women’s bath­room at Stu­dio 54.”

These are the good times! Nile Rodgers es­capes the heat at Abbey Road, Lon­don.

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