|Article by Larry Flick in Billboard Magazine, 5/4/96, Vol. 108 Issue
CHIC CO-FOUNDER BERNARD EDWARDS DIES AT AGE
- NEW YORK--Producer/musician Bernard
Edwards, a founding member of famed disco band Chic, died as a result of
pneumonia April 18 in Tokyo. He was 43 years old.
- Edwards and longtime associate
Nile Rodgers were in Japan participating in "J.T. Super Producers
'96," a concert series sponsored by Japan Tobacco that teamed Edwards
onstage with such artists as Steve Winwood, Sister Sledge, Slash of Guns
N' Roses, and Duran Duran's Simon LeBon. Edwards' spokesman David Millman
says that Edwards told friends earlier in the day that he felt ill, but
that he had no history of major health problems. He was discovered dead
in his hotel room later that evening by Rodgers.
- At press time, Edwards' body was
being shipped back to the States for burial, though specific funeral or
memorial plans had not been confirmed yet.
- Shortly before his passing, Edwards
completed producing and performing on the new Power Station album and was
preparing for a concert tour with bandmates Robert Palmer, Tony Thompson,
and Andy Taylor following the album's planned summer release on EMI-Capitol.
- Thompson, who was also a member
of the original Chic lineup, described Edwards as "my best friend,
my mentor, and one of the greatest people I've ever known."
- Born in Greenville, N.C., Edwards'
musical career took flight when he moved to New York during the early '70s
and met Rodgers through a mutual friend. At the time of their meeting,
Rodgers had been working as an in-house guitarist at the Apollo Theatre
in Harlem, N.Y. Quickly bonding as friends, the two jammed together in
a variety of funk, R&B, and disco groups before forming their own band,
Big Apple, with Thompson. That outfit's it's name was soon changed to Chic
in order to avoid confusion with another disco band, Walter Murphy &
the Big Apple Band.
- With the addition of singers Norma
Jean Wright and Luci Martin, the Chic sound--a unique blend of jangly funk
guitars with smooth, muscular rhythms and sleek soul harmonies that remains
among the most emulated sounds in contemporary pop music--took shape, and
the act landed a recording deal with Atlantic in 1977.
- The hits started to roll that
same year with the release of the act's self-titled debut album, which
spawned a radio and club smash with "Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah,
Yowsah, Yowsah)." "Everybody Dance," "Le Freak,"
and "Good Times" were among the hits that followed between 1978
and 1982. In 1980, "Good Times" was used as the instrumental
foundation for one of rap music's first mainstream hits, "Rapper's
Delight" by the Sugar Hill Gang.
- Following the disbanding of Chic
in 1982, Edwards embarked on a highly successful production career. Among
his more noteworthy album credits were Palmer's "Riptide" and
Rod Stewart's "Out Of Order." With Rodgers, he co-produced the
Diana Ross classics "Upside Down" and "I'm Coming Out,"
as well as the Sister Sledge chestnuts "We Are Family" and "He's
The Greatest Dancer."
- In 1992, Edwards and Rodgers reassembled
Chic to record "Chic-ism," which revisited the band's vintage
sound while also exploring more timely club trends.
- In pondering Edwards' legacy,
longtime friend Frankie Crocker, PD at WBLS New York, sums it up simply
as "a life so young, a talent so large, and a goodbye too soon. The
loss is immeasurable."
- Edwards is survived by six children
from his first marriage.
- Assistance in preparing this story
was provided by Steve McClure in Tokyo.