Nile Rodgers on why he hasn’t worked with Madonna since Like a Virgin
In the history of pop second winds, Nile Rodgers may be setting a record. From the mid Seventies through the late Eighties, Rodgers’ footprint was all over the charts. First, he was the co-founder of the iconic disco band Chic, the man who co-wrote and played guitar on “Le Freak,” “Good Times,” and Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family,” then went on to become one of pop’s most ubiquitous producers, helming records by David Bowie, Madonna (Like a Virgin), and Duran Duran and hits by the Thompson Twins, the B-52s and many more.
Drug addiction curtailed Rodgers’ life and career in the Nineties, but he’s blasted back as EDM’s most beloved founding father: in the last year and a half alone, he’s worked with Daft Punk and Avicii along with David Guetta, Disclosure and other dance producers. Talking with Rolling Stone in his Manhattan apartment, Rodgers clicked through some of the legends and newcomers he’s worked with and some of his favorite tales about them.
On why he hasn’t worked with Madonna since Like a Virgin in 1984:
There were two things going on at the time that she would probably deny, but it’s absolutely the truth. She didn’t want to go out [on tour] without me as her musical director. Which is impossible, because I make records. So maybe in some strange way, she felt a little bit slighted or betrayed. That was a little bit of it.
Also, she had just married Sean [Penn], and Sean had a huge problem with my girlfriend at the time, even though, when they got engaged, they did it at her apartment. They were living at her apartment, all that sort of stuff. But sometimes that can backfire on you, and that’s what happened. So that had a little bit to do with it. She was incredibly loyal to Sean at the time. Of course, I’m going to be loyal to my girlfriend. So this is all stuff that nobody would think about, nobody would admit to. But it really is the absolute truth.
And then, probably, the biggest impediment was my deal, which was a massive deal, and it guaranteed that the next record would absolutely be the same. If you think about it from my point of view, I earned that. And I certainly had no reason to back down. “I just gave you a 20-something-million-selling record! Why should I take less?” But why should she pay more, now that she’s got a 20-something-million-record? That doesn’t make any sense.
So you put all of those things together. She and I have never talked about it, because I know I would stick to my guns. I’ve spoken to many people who were involved in the deal, and they said, “Oh, Nile, just be a bigger person.” And I’m saying, “Guys, it’s just technical. You have to put in context.” At the time, no one believed in her but me and a couple other people. I would love to work with Madonna again, but I certainly would absolutely say, “Here’s the contract, it’s already done. Let’s do this.” And she would probably say no, and I would understand that. I guarantee you she’s not paid anything like that ever since. But we never had a falling out, and we’re totally great friends. I don’t lament not working with Madonna at all. I don’t even think about it, until other people mention it.
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