Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco and Destiny
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Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco and Destiny

4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  518 ratings  ·  109 reviews
You will hear a Nile Rodgers song today. It will make you happy.' Legendary producer and co-founder of Chic, Nile Rodgers wrote 'We are Family' for Sister Sledge and 'I'm Coming Out' for Diana Ross, produced 'Let's Dance' for David Bowie and 'Like a Virgin' for Madonna. He has worked with just about every major star, from Michael Jackson and Bob Dylan to Prince and Duran D...more
Kindle Edition, 352 pages
Published October 20th 2011 by Sphere (first published October 1st 2011)
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Nick Pemberton
This was great. Best muso's autobiography I have read since Art Pepper's Straight Life. Why so good? Because, amongst the inevitable famous namechecks and millions of units shifted, hits made and dollars traded for powder and tooted up the nose there's a great (self)portrait of a child -gifted to the point of serious strangeness- growing up independent, inventive and (yep!) charming and hard working in a world of junk, dysfunction, and the casual social destructiveness (rape, murder, incest, add...more
Edmole
The two best bits in most rock star autobiogs are a) when they start to break big and have hits and the world is their oyster and b) when they go mad on cocaine and become psychotic party animals. The worst bit is c) when they pretend to regret b), and repeat a load of rehab speak about how they're much happier now they stare at wind chimes and think about their recovery twelve hours a day.

This book has about 250 pages of a) and b) and about 50 pages of c), and that is a pretty good ratio.

Nile...more
Catherine
I worked in the music industry during the ‘70s and have firsthand knowledge of Chic’s rise to fame. I was really looking forward to reading Rodgers’ autobiography and about his experiences working in the music industry particularly during that time.

The first portion of the book where he recounts his youth with drug addicted parents and constant turmoil was a page-turner. He writes in great detail about his own addictions, and from reading his account, one would presume the ability to be an amaz...more
David
Unbelievable.... in a good way. Niles upbringing is a jaw dropping, eye-popping, testimony of survival. The first quarter of this book has nothing to do with his future mega-celebrity and even then, every other page shocks and amazes. His mother was a thirteen year old student when she gave birth to Niles and he was adopted by an Albino woman living in the Bronx... his natural father is reintroduced several times through the book in various states of incredibly sad states: as a wino at the Port...more
Margie
You may not know Nile Rodgers' name, but you know his music. In addition to his band Chic, he's written songs for and produced records for a Who's Who of the music world, over the past 4 decades.

In this immensely readable autobiography, Rodgers tells of his chaotic childhood (parents doing and selling drugs, a murderer, several half brothers living with various parents and grandparents - it's all there), his career progression, and his own struggles with addiction. Happily for us, he avoids the...more
Christopher
Highly entertaining, highly addictive read. Written with great charm and purpose, this is a book that will be of interest to anyone with a love of pop music of the 70s and 80s. Rodgers has worked with Madonna, Bowie, Diana Ross and scores of other legends, as well as making history with his own hits as part of Chic. The scandalous namedropping is kept to a tasteful minimum, but this book is still juicy and full of crazy tales. And at just under 300 pages, it's a whirlwind of a read.
RYCJ
“A kite flies highest against the wind…” – Breathtaking!

I opened Nile Rodger’s memoir and honestly, had it not been for the Vine Program I would have missed out on enjoying one of the best books I’ve read this year.

His childhood was very hard to receive as cavalierly as he shared it, however when it came time to him sharing his music, there are three words that come instantly to mind. Oh – My – God!

The irony here is, once I was fully immersed and engaged into the technical philosophies of makin...more
Lisa
This might not be Lolita or War and Peace or Invisible Man, but still it deserved every star I gave it. I also think I might be a slight bit biased because this is the autobiography of a pop music producer/guitarist who came up as a session player and was the next producer to work with Madonna and I'm naturally interested in this period, music and to learn what my father's working life must have been like. All that said, I'm pretty sure none of the aforementioned things matter.

This is the warme...more
Art
You couldn't ask for a more interesting dude. As a producer Nile Rodgers is responsible for some of the most famous, funky songs in the world, like "Good Times", "Like a Virgin", "Love Shack" and "Let's Dance".. imagine a world without them!? He's met and worked with seemingly everyone that has ever been famous and is not afraid to namedrop and share anecdotes about them all. The mandatory "early family life" section is also very exciting, as he grew up with bohemian druggie parents who got into...more
Patrick
Really enjoyed the Rodger's autobiography. I liked the first part of the book best all the way through the Chic period. He talked more directly about music in this part and I find that the most interesting. The second half of this book focuses on his years as a big-deal producer in the 80s/90s and his drug problem and sobriety. This wasn't bad, but there was less focus on the specifics of his musical life. While I am not a big fan of many of those block-buster 80s records he produced, it would h...more
Phil Overeem
An interesting romp that, however, left me unsatisfied. Once Chic's great early singles catapult him into the big money, he has almost NOTHING to say about their interesting later career, including their great album REAL PEOPLE. Also--not unusual with memoirs, but here it's so frequent it's annoying--he makes multiple errors of chronology, so many that the reader's tempted to call bullshit on him. Definitely overrated--but at least it reads quickly and it's got a bit of a roller coaster ride.
Byron
Nile Rodgers is currently experiencing a sort of late career renaissance, with his work with Daft Punk and that song with Pharrell, which I don't really care for, but I imagine might generate some interest in this book. The interesting thing about his career is that while his main career, as guitarist and songwriter for Chic, the thing he's known for to this day, was over for all intents and purposes almost as soon as it began, he's had this second career as a ridonkulously successful producer f...more
Tim
I heard about this book a while back and it sounded interesting, in that it made Rodgers sound like an interesting guy, someone who has more to him than just being a talented music maker.

This book was readable but a bit disappointing.
For one thing, it is glaringly ghostwritten, giving the impression that Rodgers thinks like a magazine article, and a bland one at that - Reader's Digest, say.
Worse, it turns out that although he certainly has had a colourful life, and one that started out pretty...more
Tom
an amazing journey - junkie / beatnik parents, childhood shuttling between New York and LA, early acid experiences with Timothy Leary, part of the Black Panthers ... serious drug abuse ... he came through it all and made some of the most uplifting music.

Katherine
A crazy life and a fun book. Every once in a while, Nile says something really interesting about race in the music industry at that time but doesn't elaborate--I wish he would write another book about that!
Dachokie
Wow, What an Amazing Journey …

This book was reviewed as part of Amazon's Vine program which included a free advance copy of the book.

There is a flood of books capturing the decadent recklessness of rock stars. Unfortunately, most of these books are “unauthorized” biographies (generally meaning the author has taken great liberty in revealing the most salacious details for the sake of selling books) or “official” biographies (generally meaning the subject has given the author approval on exposing...more
Richard Kearney
It's possible the name Nile Rodgers doesn't ring a bell, but if you've been a fan of popular music during the last 35 years it's certain you've heard his work. To take just one current example, Rodgers co-wrote and played guitar on Daft Punk's single "Get Lucky," which was the #2 single on the Billboard Hot 100 just a few weeks ago and currently stands at #5. In the 1970s, Rodgers and bass player Bernard Edwards formed a writing and production partnership and created the band Chic, which skyrock...more
V. Briceland
In the late nineteen-seventies and early nineteen-eighties, when the U.S. public opinion of disco music soured, Nile Rodgers was among those who took the backlash the hardest. There's an affecting anecdote in his chatty and informal autobiography, Le Freak: An Upside-Down Story of Family, Disco, and Destiny in which he and his partner in the Chic empire, Bernard Edwards, stood alone and ostracized in a nightclub during those disco-sucks days because record studio executives were simply too frigh...more
Carol
My grand dream is to take Nile Rodgers and Steve Dahl out to dinner. Rodgers is one of the creators of the group Chic and of the sound we associate with classic disco. Steve Dahl was a young Chicago DJ in 1979 who will forever be associated with the Disco Sucks melee at Comiskey Park. Rodgers doesn't blame Dahl for the end of disco and of one phase of his career, but does still wonder why disco was literally up one day and down the next. Luckily, talent may get caught up in social and economic f...more
Ethan
You have probably never heard of Nile Rodgers. Born to a teenage, junkie mother and a deadbeat father, Nile never had what most would consider a normal life. As his mother went from boyfriend to boyfriend, he found himself embarking on multiple cross country trips between New York and California and in the care of his two grandmothers. With a lack of guidance, structure, and discipline, young Nile was forced to grow up quickly, and discover a self reliance that would serve as the foundation for...more
Jonathan Karmel
On New Year’s Eve, 1977, Grace Jones invited Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards to see her show at Studio 54. She told them to go to the stage door, but the doorman told them to fuck off. So they went to a friend’s house, downed some Dom Pérignon, snorted some cocaine, and started jamming and singing “Awww, fuck off – fuck Studio 54 – fuck off” – which got changed to the words for Le Freak (“freak out”).

Not just this anecdote, but actually the whole story of Rodgers’ life, seemed like an unmitigat...more
Donald Peebles
As this memoir was recommended to me by two people in my life, I recommend LE FREAK: AN UPSIDE DOWN STORY OF FAMILY, DISCO, AND DESTINY. I have always heard of Chic but I never knew how much of a hard-knock life Nile Rodgers had and the hurdles he overcame in his family life. It was amazing to read how many musicians he produced, like Diana Ross, David Bowie, Madonna, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Michael Jackson, Sister Sledge, Carole Davis, Duran Duran, and many others. I could not put it down.
Quentin
I was lucky enough to catch a question/answer session with Nile Rodgers earlier this year, and his fun, humble, and engrossing personality made me decide to read his book. Glad I did. For music fans, this is a must read. I'm not even that big of a fan of some of the areas of Pop Music that Nile has most worked in, but that almost doesn't matter at all. Nile's life is a great window in to the last half century of America. From 50's era nuclear family, through 60's counter-culture, social unrest,...more
Denise Kruse
Dick Clark once introduced Chic as "the greatest group nobody knows" and Nile Rodgers admits that he never felt like the star. But he was a star! Who hasn't danced to Le Freak and We Are Family and Everybody Dance and many huge hits you likely didn't know he played a part in?

Super-smart Nile tells his story of growing up in the 50s as an asthmatic boy scout, a parochial school attendee "cared for" by junkies and drunks in a world of sex and violence— bounced between LA and NY. As a teen in the 6...more
Kim
It was a quick read and cool to see that he succeeded against all odds considering how rough his childhood was. I was a little disappointed that half of the book was about his childhood because I would have liked to have read more about the musicians he produced and more details about that. Granted, he was addicted to cocaine and alcohol during that period, but he did remember a lot of details about working with David Bowie & Madonna, so I would have liked to have heard more about the other...more
bfred
I started reading this to gain more insight into the great producer's body of work, but was pleasantly surprised by an amazing memoir about growing up fast in NYC and dealing with the excesses of success. Rodgers, best known as the founder of Chic who went on to produce landmark albums for Madonna and David Bowie, was raised by downtown heroin junkies in the 1950s and ’60s, and it's fascinating to see how profoundly his worldview was shaped by the ups and downs of this experience. As his wanderi...more
James Loftus
Amazing. What an intellect this guy has ... a great example of a true artist trusting his instincts and using them to create great art. A forgotten era, disco. Ruling the world one day, forgotten, nothings, day next. The ultra cool sound, the jazz strumming riffs, base lines, behind some of the songs I loved, Original Sin, INXS, the great touches on B52's, Love Shack. This guy Nile, rocks, and he is a story teller from Hell. Strap yourself in for a wild ride to Hell and back because he did it al...more
John
This was an interesting and easy read. I found it surprisingly well written for a celebrity bio. However, I did find it unbalanced in the sense that much space was given over to his youth and the early years of fame, but then he practically zipped through the following years which constitute almost half of his life.

Something I found interesting: we are made privy to all sorts of details of his life, but there is no real discussion of his amorous relationships. He alludes to girlfriends, sometime...more
Amanda
This has to be one of the most powerful autobiographies of a musician I have read in a long time. Direct and pulling no punches Nile really gives an insight to his upbringing and his life both before and after Chic. I hadn't realised how many people he had worked with and he certainly has had an invisible influence over the music that I like. He has had his battles but has successfully conquered them. I was, however, very moved when he wrote about the untimely death of bass virtuoso Bernard Edwa...more
Parastou Khiaban
As a general rule, I tend not to read autobiographies – I find them to have a very ‘photo shopped’ image of the person in question and it all rings a little false to my ears. So when I was given Le Freak to read on an internship, it went straight to the bottom of the TBR pile. In fact, it stayed at the bottom for over a year. I lent it to a friend, who really enjoyed it, and six months later decided to give it a try myself.

I found Le Freak to be shocking, enlightening, sometimes even witty; it’s...more
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“Nard and I thought it over and came up with some answers via 'band logic,' not to be confused with actual logic.” 1 likes
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