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Wednesday, March 21 News

From Chic to Daft Punk: Music icon Nile Rodgers is 'Booked' for Westport Library honor

From the legendary disco hits of Chic to collaborations with a galaxy of superstars to last year's international, Grammy Award-winning hit, "Get Lucky," with Daft Punk, Nile Rodgers -- guitarist, composer, arranger, producer, philanthropist and writer -- is a music icon.

Rodgers is also a Westport resident, and in recognition of his years of achievement, has been selected to receive this year's "BOOKED for the Evening Award" from the Westport Library next month.

The May 15 ceremony marks Rodgers' second appearance at the library in two years -- in early 2012, he gave a presentation on his then-recently released memoir, "Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco and Destiny."

With one of the most prolific careers in music over more than four decades, Rodgers had a role in more than 100 million recordings sold over that time.

"Casual music fans may not recognize Rodgers' name, but they will recognize his music. In the '70s and '80s he wrote and produced the songs that defined that era, among them "Le Freak," "Good Times," "We Are Family," "Like a Virgin," "Modern Love" and many more," a library official told the Westport News at the time of Rodgers' 2012 appearance.

Rodgers first professional gig 40 years ago, at age 19, was as a session guitarist for "Sesame Street." He played in the house band at Harlem's legendary Apollo Theater behind people like Screaming Jay Hawkins, Maxine Brown, Aretha Franklin, Ben E. King and other legendary R&B artists.

Shortly afterward, Rodgers and professional partner/bassist Bernard Edwards formed the band that became Chic, in name and fashion. They subsequently became world famous.

The list of artists for whom Rodgers over the years has written songs and produced albums is a lengthy Who's Who of music legends, including Diana Ross, Madonna, David Bowie, Duran Duran, INXS, Mick Jagger, Michael Jackson, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Prince.

That streak continued with Rodgers' collaboration with the electronic-music dance band, Daft Punk, culminating with three Grammy Awards this year for his work on the group's album, "Random Access Memories," with awards for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, Record of the Year and Album of the Year.

He also has composed music for the movies and received the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences New York Chapter Governor's Lifetime Achievement Award and the Heroes Award. In 2005, he was honored at the Dance Music Hall of Fame in New York when he was inducted along with former bandmate Bernard Edwards.

Rodgers also the subject of the 2013 BBC documentary, "The Hitmaker."

In the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Rodgers created the We Are Family Foundation -- its name drawn from the it song he wrote for Sister Sledge -- to help promote the healing process. He told his Westport audience in 2012 that the foundation had then built almost 30 schools around the world and annually rings teens from other countries to the U.S. for mentoring.

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The Westport Library's BOOKED for the Evening Award was created to honor a person whose work has "nurtured a love of learning and enhanced our understanding of the world," library officials said in a statement announcing the award. It is the library's signature fundraising event.

Past recipients of the award include Tom Brokaw, E.L. Doctorow, Calvin Trillin, Wendy Wasserstein, Pete Hamill, Martin Scorsese, Doris Kearns Goodwin, David Halberstam, Arthur Mitchell, Oscar Hijuelos, Adam Gopnik, Barry Levinson, Patti Smith and Jon Meacham.

Tickets for the BOOKED for the Evening Award will go on sale later this month. Visit www.westportlibrary.org or call 203-291-4824.