Nile Rodgers gives the lowdown on first Chic record in 25 years

When Chic dropped the single “I’ll Be There” two years ago, anticipation was high that its accompanying album, It’s About Time, would follow suit shortly thereafter. But founding member Nile Rodgers tells Billboard that something wasn’t right: ironically, timing. The deaths of David Bowie and other major artists last year, coupled with the rise of President Donald J. Trump, convinced Rodgers to shelve the album, Chic’s first since 1992’s Chic-ism.

“I had this great, fun, celebratory record and instead of seeing this positive, wonderful world there was this negative world of dark, dark, dark stuff. So I just felt that it wasn’t the time,” Rodgers told the magazine prior to his keynote speech at South by Southwest in Austin on Wednesday. “It hit me that 2017 was the 40th anniversary of Studio 54 and the 40th anniversary of Chic. We started together. … So I’m thinking that’s a good omen for putting this thing out soon.”

Rodgers, who, together with his late musical partner Bernard Edwards, shepherded Chic through the disco era and smash hits like “Le Freak” and “Good Times,” will receive the Award for Musical Excellence from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April. The award “honors performers, songwriters and producers who have changed the course of music history” but is separate from the “Performer” category, which has ignored Chic’s contributions since the group first became eligible in 2002.

Past recipients of the Award for Musical Excellence include The E Street Band, which was controversially inducted separate from Bruce Springsteen in 2014, a move many saw as a slap in the face in light of the “band of brothers” spirit of Springsteen and his cohorts. Rodgers, whose production credits apart from Chic are not insignificant (Bowie, Madonna, Duran Duran, Diana Ross), has mixed feelings.

“I’m still weird and ambivalent about that,” Rodgers told Billboard. “It’s like, OK, the other stuff I’ve done achieved more than Chic? We were only successful for two years and only have three albums, but the collective sales and influence is pretty incredible.”