1. Ceremony & banquet 2024
2. The young musician
3. The Chic Organization Ltd
4. Upside down & The family
5. Bowie and Madonna
6. Star producer
7. Back to Chic
8. A new generation
9. Legacy
2024 Laureate


The 2024 Polar Music Prize is awarded to Nile Rodgers from the USA. Dance music has been played for thousands of years. However, there are few in history, if any, who have composed dance music as sophisticated and subtly arranged as Nile Rodgers. It is fitting that his group was named Chic: elegance is part of his musical hallmark. As a composer, producer and guitarist, Nile Rodgers turned disco and funk into an art form. His chop chord style of guitar playing, which he calls chucking, creates a hypnotic swing that has kept millions grooving on the dance floor. The songs created by Nile Rodgers for Chic, Sister Sledge, Diana Ross, David Bowie, Madonna, Daft Punk and many others are so well-crafted that they will outlive us all.


Augustine in Vinterträdgården

May 21, 2024

Nile Rodgers received the Polar Music Prize on May 21, 2024. The ceremony and banquet celebrated his long lasting career with hits such as ”We are family”, "I'm coming out" and ”Everybody dance” performed by Kayo, Gladys del Pilar, Sharon Dyall and Janice, ”Let’s dance” by Moonica Mac, ”Material girl” by Peg Parnevik and ”Spacer” by Augustine. The banquet opened with a Mash up dance show with Rodger’s greatest hits from Chic, Avicii and Daft Punk.


Peg Parnevik

Moonica Mac

In his acceptance speech, Nile Rodgers mentionned previous Laureates and honoured his Swedish friend, the late Tim "Avicii" Bergling.

I am honored to be here tonight in such distinguished company. Congratulations to the outstanding Esa-Pekka Salonen, and all the past recipients of The Polar Prize to have been acknowledged in the same way as Paul McCartney, Led Zeppelin, Chuck Berry, Joni Mitchell, Ennio Morricone and so many more of my heroes is a dream come true.

More footages on our YouTube channel and Flickr.

Sharon Dyall, Janice, Kayo & Gladys del Pilar

Nile Rodgers was born September 19, 1952 in New York. He clearly possessed exceptional musical talent early on.

The young Nile spent his childhood back and forth between Los Angeles and New York, brought up mainly by his young mother Beverly, and his both grandmothers. He got musical inspiration from different parts of his family. His grandmother made him listen to Elvis Presley, his biological father was a drummer, he himself brought Nancy Wilson and Billie Holiday to his strict catholic schools for his classmates to listen to.

During the 60s in his teens, he listened to contemporary artists such as The Temptations, The Doors and The Beatles he explains in his autobiography ”Le Freak” from 2010.

Early influences

Billie Holiday, ca 1947

”He’d patiently teach me to read rhythm patterns. Because of robust music programs in the public school system, by the time I was 14, I could play at least a tune on almost any instrument in the symphony orchestra.”

- Nile Rodgers on learning music from his father and in school, "Le Freak", 2010

His real father Nile Rodgers Sr was a drummer and percussionist, specialized in Afro-Cuban beats. Rodgers Sr was not always present in his son's life, but he taught him music, besides everything young Nile got to learn in school thanks to a solid musical learning program.

He touched his first guitar as a teenager in the mid sixties, it belonged to his grandmothers boyfriend Dan. He also played in school orchestras and learnt how to handle several instruments. When acquainted with the guitar, he used his knowledge to learn by himself – and he had found his instrument.

"A day in the life" was one of the first songs Nile Rodgers learnt how to play on the guitar.

Launch of the Nile Rodgers "Hitmaker" Stratocaster®

”He finished tuning, He handed it back to me. I looked at the finger chart and put my fingers in the positions that I had methodically practicing. I strummed and a perfect G major chord rang out. I switched to the next position and strummed a D Major, Sir Edmond Hillary, reaching the summit of Mount Everest must have felt something similar to what I felt in that moment.”

– Nile Rodgers in “Le Freak” telling the story of his first real encounter with a correctly tuned guitar. And the rest is history.

Nile Rodgers with his signature guitare: the white Fender Stratocaster. (Source: Photo by Jill Furmanovsky)

The young Nile left home at a very early age and moved into a community living, and joined the Black Panthers for a while.

He emerged himself in the musical communities in New York, especially in Greenwich Village playing with jazz-fusion bands. He studied guitar with Maestro Julio Pool, Ted Dunbar and Billy Taylor.

Thanks to jazz and classical training he started to substitute for other musicians and doing TV and radio commercials, recording sessions, gig playing backup band on label New York City led by EW Farell whom he had worked with at the Van Nuys airport while living in LA.

At the age of 19 he stumbled upon a band audition for the TV show Sesame Street. He was hired and toured the US.

Billy Taylor, one of Rodger's guitar teachers.

Fred Dunbar (album cover)

Nile Rodgers on playing with Sesame Street.

At the same time he auditioned and got hired for the in-house band at the prestigious Apollo Theater in Harlem where he played alongside the likes of Aretha Franklin and Funkadelic.

He did his first show ever at the Apollo with Screamin' Jay Hawkins – who almost literally scared him to death.

At this time he could truly call himself a professional musician.

The legendary Apollo Theatre on W 125 Street in Harlem, New York

Screamin' Jay Hawkins in 1979 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Nile Rodgers on his first day at the Apollo when he played with Screamin' Jay Hawkins.

”Once we started playing together that night, well, it was like we each telepathically knew what the other was thinking."

– Nile Rodgers on playing with Bernard Edwards for the first time, "Le Freak", 2010

New York, 1974

Meeting Bernard

Nile Rodgers met his long lasting musical partner Bernard Edwards when substituting in trumpet player Hack Bartholomew’s band. They became inseparable, doing gigs and back up band jobs together. In 1973 they founded the backup band Big Apple Band, playing with vocal group New York City.

Birth of Club Culture

The duo's love however remained at the club and in dance music, and their next musical project, Chic, put them on the map.

NYC was in a terrible state in the 70s after several economical crisis. Middle and upper class moved to the suburbs, leaving the city to be rediscovered by artists, musicians and bohemians. New musical cultures and parties flourished, and here Chic found its grounds - the club. DJing and club culture were on the rise, starting in the streets and then moving into club saces, which had a huge impact on nightlife, led by black and gay culture. The legendary Studio 54 was founded in 1977, where people listened and danced to music played by a DJ, not exclusively by live bands anymore.

1978: Inside iconic disco nightclub Studio 54

Dancers at a disco in 1979.

Chic hitting the charts

Rodgers and Edwards were one of the first production teams though to specifically create music that would work on a dance floor with Chic. With drummer Tony Thompson and singers Norma Jean Wright and Alfa Anderson rounding out the lineup, Chic quickly grabbed a record deal with Atlantic. "Dance Dance Dance (Yowsah Yowsah Yowsah),” would be their first ever radio and charts hit.

Very soon they founded the Chic Organization Ltd within which they could produce and write for others, license, compose on commission and own their rights.

First album released in 1977. The cover art featured models Valentine Monnier (left) and Alva Chinn (right) on the photo taken by Frank Laffitte. Nile Rodgers was inspired by the aesthetics of British band Roxy Music.

Almost immediately, Chic became the kings and queens of the dance and disco domain, scoring such hit albums as 1977's Chic, 1978's C'est Chic, and 1979's Risqué, that went platinum. The band's uptempo, infectious hit singles became dancefloor standards, especially a pair of chart-toppers, "Le Freak" and "Good Times."

With Chic, Rodgers developed his signature guitar style ”chucking,” thanks to Bernard he says. Rodger's chucking is a rhythmic guitar strumming keeping the song driving forward and creating a very recognizable Rodgers sound. And always on his white Fender Stratocaster that has become his signature "hitmaker" instrument.

"Le Freak" was written one New Years Eve when Rodgers and Edwards couldn't get in to Studio 54.

Breaking down his own songs and telling the story about "Le Freak."

”By not getting anything we wanted, we got everything we couldn’t even imagine.”

– Nile Rodgers on writing "Le Freak"

Cross over inspiration

Many of Chic’s characteristic sounds and groove were quickly adapted and re-used for other genres and dance floors. Rodgers relates in his Debbie Harry & Chris took him to a hip hop party, where the only music that played for four hours was a break down of “Good times” and the mc rapping lines on it. “Rapper’s delight” came out a few weeks later, featuring elements from "Good times" and considered the first hip hop song hitting the mainstream public. Ever since, several Chic songs have been sampled and remixed into modern dance and urban music. The sampling of "Good times" stirred up a law suit, that finally ended up in an equal billing on the copyright.

"Rapper's delight" by Sugarhill Gang

Nile Rodgers and Sugarhill Gang at an event in 2023.

"A song is just an excuse to go to the chorus, and the chorus is just an excuse to go to the breakdown…"

– Nile Rodgers on the Rodgers/Edwards songwriting philosophy

We are family

Rodgers and Edwards begun producing and writing for other artists than Chic, still always searching for what they called "a song's DHM – Deep Hidden Meaning."

Rodgers had heard a choral passage in a song by the band The Children of God at Woodstock in 1969, a passage he’d since that day wanted to place in a song, and that song ended up being ”We are family” written for a sibling vocal group: Sister Sledge. The song was a massive hit, along with ”He’s the greatest dancer”, ”Thinking of you” and many more. 

Rodgers himself claims that “We are family" today represents one fourth of his copyright revenues.

Sister Sledge's Rodgers/Edwards written album from 1979

"We are family" official video

Sister Sledge live in 2021 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Upside down

The disco era started to fad out around 1979-1980, much because of the "anti disco movement" and The Chic Organization felt an urgency to move on into new projects.

Around that time, they got hand picked by superstar Diana Ross to remodel her musical solo career.  

The collaboration ended up in Ross' most successful album "Diana" released in 1980. It includes "Upside down", a typical Rodgers/Edwards composition starting with...the chorus. It hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in September 1980 and remained there for four weeks. It also hit number one on the disco and soul Billboard charts, as well as internationally.

With Chic no longer occupying most of his time, Nile Rodgers was now free to focus solely on working with others and develop new ways of composing and producing. What followed was a string of the post-disco era's biggest albums and singles. 

"Disco Demolition Night" in 1979 in Chicago where "anti-disco" DJ Steve Dahl destroyed disco vinyls as an event between baseball games.

Diana Ross in 1981 at a Dutch TV-show (Source: Hans van Dijk for Anefo)

"And this goes out to Nile Rodgers, the only man who could make me start a song with a chorus!"

– David Bowie speaking at an ARChive of Contemporary Music charity event, probably in 2000

Let's dance promotion shot, 1983 (Source: EMI America)

Let's dance!

Nile Rodgers met David Bowie in 1982 in New York. They were both surprisingly enough without record deals, and Chic was becoming less active. Rodgers had according to himself had "five failures" since the "Diana"-album and the somehow unexpected duo started to work on a record together. It ended up in Bowie's "Let's dance", recorded in New York and produced by Rodgers. It gave him the title "Number One Singels Producer of the Year" and the album topped the charts both in the US and in the UK.

According to Rodgers himself, this was a major leap into the world of (mostly white) 80s rock music, and from here he would move seamlessly between different genres and musical universes.

Let's dance promotion shot, 1983 (Source: EMI America)

Madonna's Like A Virgin

1983 was another prosperous year when Nile Rodgers had several projects coming out with major names such as Paul Simon, Hall & Oates and INXS. At this time he met Madonna, a new collaboration, and a long lasting friendship.

Rodgers first saw Madonna as the supporting act at a NYC club and he was impressed with the meticulously choreographed live act and her star quality. Madonna was already crossing the boundaries between funk, soul and new wave and rock genres both musically and aesthetically. Madonna herself was idolizing Nile mostly because of Chic and her label at the time agreed on Nile Rodgers coming on board. "Like A Virgin" features Chic members Bernard Edwards and Tony Thompson on several songs, and the album brought Madonna to the next level of her career and it has become a landmark in pop music world wide.

Iconic performance of "Like A Virgin" at the MTV Video Music Awards in 1984.

The Thompson Twins, Madonna, Nile Rodgers, & Steve Stevens performing "Revolution" at Live Aid 1985

The star producer

From Let's dance and onwards, offers from others flooded in, as Rodgers scored further hits: INXS' "Original Sin," Duran Duran's "The Reflex" and "Notorious," Mick Jagger's "She's the Boss," Jeff Beck's "Flash," the B-52's' "Cosmic Thing," and the Vaughan Brothers' "Family Style," among many others.

Additionally, Rodgers found time during this hectic period to issue a pair of solo albums, 1983's Adventures in the Land of the Good Groove and 1985's B-Movie Matinee, and scored films such as Coming to America, Earth Girls Are Easy, and Beverly Hills Cop III.

Collaborations he often highlights himself are the ones with Duran Duran and INXS where the merge of 80s art rock, new wave and Rodger's specific sounds and musical experiences from the previous decade always ended up on the charts.

Official Polar Music Prize Playlist

INXS – Original Sin

" longest continuous relationship with a band other than Chic." Rodgers says about Duran Duran in "Le Freak" from 2010.

Back to Chic

Rodgers and Edwards put together a reunited version of Chic in the early '90s (with an all-new supporting cast), which toured and even issued an album, 1992's Chic-Ism. Rodgers was saluted with his own tribute show in Japan on April 18, 1996 that found him joined on-stage by his old pal Edwards, as well as Sister Sledge, Steve Winwood, Simon LeBon, and Slash. After the celebration, Edwards tragically passed away from pneumonia. The concert was released as a live album in 1999.

Rodgers has continued to perform with Chic even after the Millenium, bridging the gap between the 70s and new generations, including a headlining spot at the 2014 Essence Festival. Chic headlined the Pyramid Stage of the 2017 Glastonbury Festival. It's About Time, the ninth Chic album, arrived the following year.

In his studio The Crib in 1999

Live at the Budokan - released in 1999

Nile Rodgers & CHIC live in 2014

New generations

Rodgers was as active as ever during the 2010s. At the beginning of the decade, he and Rhino France compiled the excellent four-disc box set The Chic Organization Box Set, Vol. 1: Savoir Faire. Despite being diagnosed with prostate cancer the same year, Rodgers kept moving as much as he could.

To honour the tremendous influence he's had on dance music he was invited to work with Daft Punk on the Grammy-winning Random Access Memories, including "Get Lucky," a number one pop hit in dozens of territories that made a new generation discover his genius.

Shortly after the song's release, he announced that his doctor had given him a secondary "all clear" regarding cancer.

Both Nile Rodger's older tunes and composer and producer skills are still highly attractive to a new generation of artists, from Pitbull to Beyoncé. Rodger's co-wrote "Cuff it" for the Renaisance album released in 2022.

Get Lucky wins Record of the Year at the Grammys 2014

"Spiritually he's been with me in the studio for 25 years."

– Pharrell Williams inducting Nile Rodgers in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2017


In the beginning of the 2000s Nile Rodgers founded the We Are Family Foundation. It started with the re-recording of the massive 1979 hit by 200 personalities just 11 days after the September 11, 2001.6 months after the attack on the World Trade Center a video with several children television characters came out to spread a positive message of togetherness. Since 2004, the We Are Family foundation has "dedicated its efforts to creating programs athat promote cultural diversity" and highlighting young people who are positively changing the world.

In 2017, Rodgers & Edwards were inducted in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Rodger's musical legacy is obvious, both thanks to the amount of international super stars that he has collaborated with and taken to the "next level", but also thanks to Chic's huge influence on dance music from the 70s and onwards. Numerous artists have sampled the now classic Chic riffs and Rodgers has been a major reference in musical production over four decades now.

Induction in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, 2017

Interview on Q with Tom Power: Chic celebrating 25 years

The We Are Family Foundation video starring childrens' tv characters

Nile Rodgers & CHIC – Tiny Desk Concert

Article written in 2024.
Sources: Autobiography "Le Freak", Hachette 2010,, Rovi, Wikipedia

Header photo by Jill Furmanovsky

Chris Blackwell, Laureate of 2023 and founder of Island records congratulates Nile Rodgers

Duran Duran congratulate Nile Rodgers

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