(May 31, 2023).  Whether they know it or not, everyone, everywhere (but maybe not all at once) has heard at least one song written, produced or performed on by Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Nile Rodgers.

Of course when his records—by himself and by others—have sold upwards of a half-billion units—the likelihood of the above claim being true goes way up!

The song “We Are Family” alone probably accounts for half the population in terms of having at least been exposed to a Rodgers tune.  Along with his late partner from the legendary disco group Chic—Bernard Edwards—Nile wrote and produced that iconic anthem for Sister Sledge in 1979 and watched as it became one of the many chart-busting tunes he and ‘Nard created during the disco era.

Or maybe Diana Ross’ once-ubiquitous 1980 post-disco smash, “I’m Coming Out,” which now serves as an LGBTQ+ anthem, is the vehicle through which later generations of music lovers were introduced to Nile, if not through its 1997 hip-hop reincarnation as “Mo Money, Mo Problems” by The Notorious B.I.G. feat. Puff Daddy and Mase.

Nile Rodgers (second from left) performs with his band Chic (2017)

Of course, Chic had their own hits as well, including “Le Freak,” the biggest-selling 45rpm vinyl single in Atlantic Records history, and “Good Times,” which also hit No. 1 in 1979 and served as the commercial launchpad for hip-hop after the Sugar Hill Gang co-oped it into “Rapper’s Delight” a few months later. 

One doesn’t even have to go back to ancient times to find evidence of Rodgers’ familiar work.  

As recently as 2013, he was featured on the worldwide smash by Daft Punk, “Get Lucky,” which reached No. 1 in 23 countries and No. 2 in six others, while becoming one of the biggest-selling (or downloaded/streamed) singles of all time.

That song also featured famed producer Pharrell Williams who, along with Rodgers, was largely credited with the song’s No. 2 chart-peaking success here in America.

The only thing blocking “Get Lucky” from No. 1 during the five weeks it secured the No. 2 position on Billboard’s Hot 100 was another song on which Williams was featured, the controversial Robin Thicke smash “Blurred Lines,” which held court at the top spot for an amazing three months in 2013.

Still, Williams being featured on the top two songs at the same time was highly impressive, something that has now happened quite a few times over history, but is still very noteworthy when it does.

However, Nile Rodgers actually did one better nearly three decades earlier when he had a hand in creating the top three songs in America simultaneously, and none of them were associated with his band Chic, which had temporarily disbanded by then, or anything else related to his disco years.

It was during a single week in late 1984/early 1985–literally the decade’s midpoint—when the stars aligned to place three songs either produced or performed by the iconic producer-guitarist in the top three positions on the Hot 100 simultaneously.

Rodgers’ domination of the chart started in mid-December 1984 when two songs he produced—one by Duran Duran, one by Madonna—charged into the top three at Nos. 2 and 3, respectively. 

Duran Duran’s “The Wild Boys,” that tribal-sounding, one-off studio single from the band’s live Arena album jumped from No. 4 to No. 2 and looked as if it would become a No. 1 hit—the band’s second after “The Reflex” (the No. 1 remix of which Nile also produced)—the following week. 

Except another Rodgers-produced tune—Madonna’s “Like A Virgin”—had leaped from  No. 11 to No. 3 that same week in December.  

With its much greater momentum, and its status as the song that would instantly transform Madonna from rising American star to global superstar, “Like A Virgin” would leapfrog “The Wild Boys” the following week, giving Rodgers a production hand in the two top songs in America—a first since Jim Steinman had done it just over a year earlier with songs by Bonnie Tyler (“Total Eclipse of the Heart”) and Air Supply (“Making Love Out of Nothing At All”).

But it was a third song that, two weeks later, would give Rodgers a distinction—even if indirectly—that only a few others had accomplished up to that point (and only a handful have since).

It was on the chart dated January 5, 1985, when the song “Sea of Love” by Robert Plant’s group The Honeydrippers climbed from No. 4, where it had been the previous two weeks, to No. 3, while “Like A Virgin” and “The Wild Boys” were still holding down the top two slots.

The Honeydrippers at the time consisted of former Led Zeppelin members Plant and Jimmy Page, plus the former Yardbirds’ guitarist Jeff Beck, and Paul Shaffer, the latter also being then-band leader for TV’s Late Night With David Letterman.

But it also included Nile Rodgers, who was listed as the band’s third guitarist on the EP containing “Sea of Love,” making him an official member of the band (although Page is specifically credited with the guitars on “Sea of Love”).

But it’s that official band membership that established Rodgers as part-holder of the No. 3 song in America that first week in 1985, which, along with his production credits on “Like A Virgin” and “The Wild Boys,” gave him the top three songs in this country simultaneously.

The Nile Rodgers trifecta in 1985: “Like A Virgin,” “The Wild Boys” and “Sea of Love”

The following week, both “The Wild Boys” and “Sea of Love” would be pushed down the chart by soap opera star Jack Wagner’s ballad “All I Need,” and Rodgers’ triple-reign would be limited to just that Jan. 5 list. 

The Honeydrippers’ version of “Sea Of Love,” a pop remake of the song originally cowritten and performed by soul crooner Phil Phillips in 1959, is largely overlooked today.  But it became the highest-peaking song Robert Plant ever had (his previous best “Whole Lotta Love” with Led Zeppelin got as high as No. 4).

As for “The Wild Boys,” it could never overcome Madonna’s smash, and would languish at No. 2 for four weeks before finally beginning its inevitable descent down and off the charts.  Still it stands as one of Duran’s most memorable hits (and they were able to get that second No. 1 half a year later by way of the other Chic producer, Bernard Edwards, who co-helmed “A View To A Kill” with the band and Jason Corsaro).

Meanwhile, “Like A Virgin” remained at the top for six total weeks—the longest any single would spend at No. 1 for the next six years—and catapulted Madonna into a stratosphere that few others would orbit over the next decade.

It stood as Madonna’s signature song for years (arguably still does) and, most importantly for this story, set Nile Rodgers apart from any of the song creators of his day and helped make him top producer of 1985 in Billboard Magazine’s year-end recap (amazingly, even Billboard’s editorial staff, including its “Chart Beat” columnist at the time, Paul Grein, didn’t pick up on Rodgers’ amazing top-3 chart feat—and I don’t believe American Top 40’s Casey Kasem did either).

Of course, this incredible feat is just one of the many reasons that Nile Rodgers is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame today, even if it’s gone largely unnoticed until now.

And here’s a footnote ‘80s chart geeks will really love (or at least this geek did): “Sea of Love,” as mentioned earlier, was written and originally recorded by a man named Phil Phillips.  The Honeydrippers’ version would be replaced in the top five (Jan. 19, 1985) by a song recorded by two guys named Philip and Phil—Philip Bailey and Phil Collins—whose “Easy Lover” moved from No. 13 to No. 5 the week that “Sea of Love” fell from No. 4 to No. 11.

You just can’t make this stuff up any better.

The top three songs on the Billboard Hot 100 were associated with Nile Rodgers on January 5, 1985.


DJRob (he/him/his), Nile Rodgers & Chic chartologist, is a freelance music blogger from somewhere on the East Coast who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop and rock genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff!  You can follow him on Twitter at @djrobblog.

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By DJ Rob

2 thoughts on “<strong>That week in the ‘80s when Nile Rodgers had a hand in the top three songs (and none were by Chic)</strong>”
  1. I can just see your play list booming while you wrote this. That was and always will be the greatest era in music history. Nile Rogers served it like no other HOT🔥

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