Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Trouble with Chic

We're midway through the voting process for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and there has been much debate about the relative merits of not only the nominees but also those who didn't get tapped. In almost every case, it boils down to one of two arguments:
  • The public loves an artist, but the critics don't. 
  • The critics love an artist, but the public doesn't. 
This isn't the issue with Nile Rodgers and Chic, and the fact that I named Rodgers separately indicates the problem. You can't say it's a lack a popularity or influence. Rodgers' distinctive fingerprints are all over not Chic but also his hits with Madonna, David Bowie, INXS, and, most recently Daft Punk. His style is prominent in his work as both performer and producer.

The issue is that Rodgers' credits are too diffuse to merit induction in any category despite the importance of his work taken as a whole. Although Chic epitomized disco and were were heavily sampled in hip hop, but they only had a few hits; the band's career was eclipsed by Donna Summer, whose reign extended well beyond the disco era. To recognize Rodgers' work as a sideman (now called the Award for Musical Excellence) overlooks his work as a producer (now called the Ahmet Ertegun Award) and vice versa.

Nile Rodgers deserves to be in the Rock Hall, but their category structure makes it all but impossible to properly recognize his impact.