Bass player, producer and songwriter responsible in
part for the formation of two distinctively different bands, Chic and Power
Station. Nile Rodgers met him
in 1970 and along with drummer Tony Thompson, they
formed a trio called The Big Apple Band. In 1976, another band with the same
name, let by Walter Murphy, hit the top forty with "A Fifth of
Beethoven". The time was
ripe for a name change. Teaming
up with Alfa Anderson and Luci Martin, the band
morphed into Chic and became one of the most successful acts of the disco
era. " Le Freak"
spent five weeks atop the Billboard R&B chart, hit #1 on the Billboard pop
chart three times, and went platinum four times over, a record for Atlantic
Records at that time. In 1979, Risque went
platinum and yielded the #1 hit "Good Times" which was
groundbreaking in retrospect for Edwards' bass line, which has been imitated
and outright sampled since, most notably by The Sugar Hill Gang for "Rappers
Delight". Edwards and
Rodgers sued for royalties and won.
Queen outright admitted they lifted the bass line for "Another
One Bites The Dust". You
may also notice a similar bass line in "We Are Family" and that
is because Edwards and Rodgers took on Sister Sledge as a pet project when
Atlantic gave them carte blanche to work with any of Atlantic's
acts. " We Are Family"
went to #1 on the R&B chart and #2 on the pop chart, and the album of
the same name went platinum and charted as high as #3 on the Billboard 200. During this time, Edwards and
Rodgers also collaborated with Diana Ross on her 1980 release Diana, writing and producing two of
her biggest hits, "I'm Coming Out" and "Upside Down"
which went #5 and #1, respectively.
Edwards and Rodgers disbanded Chic in 1983 and went their separate
ways. The same year saw the
release of Edwards' only solo album, Glad To Be Here. In
1985, Edwards helped form another super-group, consisting of Robert Palmer,
Duran Duran's Andy and John Taylor, and Chic drummer Tony
Thompson. The group was named
Power Station after the studio in which "Le Freak" was
recorded. Their eponymous debut
LP yielded three top forty hits, a remake of T. Rex's "Get it
On (Bang a Gong)", "Some Like It Hot", and "Communication". Edwards went on to produce and play
bass on other Robert Palmer releases, notably "Addicted To Love"
and "I Didn't Mean To Turn You On". A short-lived Chic reunion resulted in
the album Chic-ism in 1992. Four years later, while on tour with
Rodgers and Thompson in Tokyo,
Edwards was found dead in his hotel room. The cause was apparently pneumonia,
and he had passed away in his sleep.
He was only 43. Edwards
paved the way for black producers at a time when they were stereotyped in
disco and R&B, opening avenues for blacks to work in other genres. He is also regarded as one of the
greatest bass players who ever lived.
In 2005, Bernard Edwards was inducted into the Dance Music Hall of
Fame in New York.
(Bernard Edwards/Nile Rodgers)
Coming Out (Bernard Edwards/Nile Rodgers)