Chic: Disco's "Greatest" Band

The Band That Brought Funk and Drama Back to Disco

Chic in 1978
Chic in 1978. Getty Images

Chic (currently known as Chic featuring Nile Rodgers) was a pioneering all-black disco band with a hard funk underpinning first made critically famous when their third single "Le Freak" (1978) hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B charts. Chic was widely regarded as the slickest and most talented musicians on the New York disco scene. because of their unerring sense of style, belief that disco was a glitzy escape from reality and their impact on not only the disco music of the 70s but 80s music as a whole.

The Origins of Chic

Guitarist Nile Rodgers and bassist Bernard Edwards founded Chic in 1976. Inspired by a concert for Roxy Music, an English glam rock band, they attended, Rodgers and Edwards began sourcing talent to form a group that would present an immersive experience with influence by the glam rock style of bands like Kiss. Tony Thompson joined the band in 1977 as a drummer and recruited Raymond Jones as a keyboardist. Norma Jean Wright joined the band as their lead singer and the group recorded "Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowzah, Yowzah, Yowzah)" with a fresh-faced recording engineer Bob Clearmountain.

Despite the high quality of the two-sided pressing of the single, Chic nevertheless found themselves rejected by every major label. However, an independent named Buddah released the 12 inch, and it became so popular in dance clubs that Atlantic soon signed them to a deal. Edwards and Rodgers' minimalist, funky take on disco proved perfect for the last half of the genre's era, and they soon found themselves in high demand, with Nile and Bernard also finding lots of side work as producers and songwriters for acts like Sister Sledge and Diana Ross.

Chic's Commercial Success

In 1977 they released their self-titled debut album "Chic" on Atlantic Records, which featured later hits "Dance, Dance, Dance," and "Everybody Dance." After a conflict with her solo career, Wright left the group in 1978 and the band replaced her with Alfa Anderson and Luci Martin for their subsequent albums.

It wasn't until their 1978 release of their second studio album, "C'est Chic," that the band truly took off. Featured on the album, "Le Freak" went on to become one of their most played tracks, smashing records on the Billboard Music charts. The album itself also went on to be their only #1 album, hitting the top of the R&B chart after its release.

Chic's Best Known Songs

It's pretty much impossible to reach the adulthood without being exposed to Chic's two biggest hits "Le Freak" and "Good Times," usually in the context of some party-rock atmosphere. But the groove of "Good Times" was consciously recreated for the Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight," which means Chic helped birth classic old-school hip-hop as well. "Le Freak" is now shorthand for any wild party, whether it be in "Gossip Girl," "Glee," "Nip/Tuck," Shrek 2 or Toy Story 3.

Chic's Later Years

Unfortunately, the anti-disco backlash soon swept Chic into the bargain bin, but Edwards, Rodgers, and Thompson arguably found even greater success afterward. Rodgers went on to produce David Bowie's "Let's Dance" and Madonna's "Like A Virgin" LPs. Edwards produced Robert Palmer's "Riptidebreakthrough album and formed the Power Station.

(Thompson played drums on all these projects!) The band reunited with its female leads for a mildly successful comeback in 1992, but sadly both Edwards and Thompson have since passed on. Original singer Norma Jean Wright occasionally performs Chic classics live with Anderson and Martin.

Many great acts went on to cover their work, most notably late-'80s dance diva Jody Watley had a minor hit with her version of "I Want Your Love." "Good Times" has also been sampled by Grandmaster Flash, De La Soul, and the Beastie Boys. Wham! and Duran Duran, both big Chic fans, often covered "Good Times" in concert.

In its heyday, the band appeared on Dick Clark's "American Bandstand" and his "New Year's Rockin' Eve," as well as "Soul Train"; the more recent lineup has shown up on both "American Idol" and "The X Factor"