(September 27, 2019). After dominating the summer of 1979 with their inescapable No. 1 pop and soul smash “Good Times,” the New York disco collective known as Chic began to experience fewer of the good times than they’d been accustomed to, particularly as the ‘70s morphed into the 1980s.
Their landmark single began making its chart descent before summer ended and was off the charts entirely before Halloween even arrived…the song’s welcome clearly being worn out by then.
Chic itself would never have another top-40 pop hit after “Good Times,” and even the band’s soul chart successes grew more scarce over the next three years (before the band ultimately pulled the plug in ‘83) while the music industry tried to navigate the post-disco era.
And while the inevitable burnout of “Good Times” – the popular, bass-driven classic that was Chic’s fourth gold-certified, top-10 pop hit – symbolized to many the end of an era, especially on the pop charts where disco tunes became fewer and farther between, the demise of “Good Times” triggered an entirely different dynamic on the R&B (and hip-hop) side of things.
The end of 1979 marked the beginning of the post-“Good Times” era where, for the next few years, artists from nearly every walk of life tried to imitate, emulate, interpolate or outright steal from the Nile Rodgers/Bernard Edwards-led group whose best days were now suddenly behind them.
Some established R&B and dance artists, as well as new, unheard-of acts, and even a nascent rap genre found sustenance in “Good Times” or the Chic sound in general. An unlikely rock band from England also got in on the action and had one of their biggest hits (and THE biggest hit they had on the soul chart) by borrowing liberally from Chic’s music arsenal.
Beginning in October 1979 and continuing for the next two years, no fewer than ten different acts laid claim to hits that were significantly inspired by “Good Times” or that blatantly copied it. All ten of these songs (plus some subsequent Chic-sounding ones) made the R&B charts, with several of them being the biggest hits of the respective artists’ careers.
And, interestingly enough, only one of those songs actually gave a credit on the label to either “Good Times” or the song’s creators, Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards.
Of course, in the four decades since “Good Times,” many more tunes have either sampled or heavily interpolated the classic Chic hit, but this article only focuses on those first two years, before copyright laws tended to work to Edwards/Rodgers’ full benefit.
Below in chronological order are brief capsules of those ten copycat records – some will be blatantly obvious in their Chic-ism, some subtle; some will be familiar to readers, others not. Audio clips and a Spotify playlist are provided for those who need memory joggers, or who just want to fondly relive the past.
“Rapper’s Delight” – Sugar Hill Gang (Oct. 1979)
This is perhaps the most talked-about, most celebrated song that “Good Times” inspired – and understandably so. Besides being first out of the Chic copycat gate, it put rap on the map and coined the phrase “hip-hop” – a term that, ever since, has been used to define both an entire culture and the genre of music that inspired it.
Put together by singer/producer/label owner Sylvia Robinson and backed by a house band that very specifically interpolated Chic’s “Good Times,” the Sugar Hill Gang – a trio from New York – came up with an undeniable rap classic.
It took legal action by Rodgers and Edwards to get Sugar Hill Records to give the Chic founders the label credit they deserved, but that was after “Rapper’s Delight” was well on its way to becoming the iconic, game-changing classic that it is today.
“I Shoulda Loved Ya” – Narada Michael Walden (Dec. 1979)
Chic’s label mate Narada Michael Walden was an established artist when he released his fourth album, The Dance of Life, featuring leadoff single, “I Shoulda Loved Ya.” The song was clearly crafted in the image of “Good Times” – from the choppy female vocals on the chorus to the specifically timed, synthesized handclaps (during the choruses and instrumental break) that sounded like they were lifted straight from Chic’s master tapes.
The long instrumental break itself, which stripped the song to its fundamental bass line then built on that by layering on piano, synth, rhythm guitar, and finally horns (the only key difference from the break in “Good Times”), was straight out of the Chic playbook (“I Want Your Love,” “We Are Family,” and, of course, “Good Times”).
The fact that Walden’s tune began and ended with the chorus – as all Chic songs had – and prominently featured bass (as “Good Times” did) drove home the belief that the singer/drummer out of Kalamazoo, Michigan clearly wanted his own “Good Times” when he conceived this record.
“I Shoulda Loved Ya” became his biggest soul hit as a singer (No. 4 on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart; No. 67 Hot 100) and set Walden on a course that would make him one of the most prolific, sought-after producers of the 1980s (including on some of Whitney Houston’s biggest hits).
“Christmas Rappin’” – Kurtis Blow (Dec. 1979)
Of all the songs on this recap, “Christmas Rappin’” by Kurtis Blow may be the most subtle in its incorporation of Chic’s musical elements. But they’re in there. It’s really in the bass line, particularly the three-note count that begins each bar, like Bernard Edwards’ riff for “Good Times.”
But the best virtue of Blow’s single is that it was put together by its producers J.B. Moore and Robert Ford using live musicians. And while it was also set to a disco/funk beat, it was different-sounding enough so as not to be a blatant rip of Chic’s “Good Times,” unlike its rap predecessor by the Sugar Hill Gang. Still, even with those key differences, few could argue that “Christmas Rappin’” – the first single of Kurtis Blow’s career – would have existed without “Good Times.”
“Bounce, Rock, Skate, Roll” – Vaughan Mason and Crew (Jan. 1980)
Among its other accolades, Chic’s “Good Times” is considered a roller-skating classic. It was with that in mind that musician Vaughan Mason decided to capitalize on the roller-disco fad of 1979 and ‘80. And why stray too far from a formula that worked so well for Chic, one of the hottest bands of the previous year?
The bass line on “Bounce” was straight-up inspired by the one Edwards used in “Good Times.” The long instrumental break that separates the second and third verse/chorus stanza is setup just like the break in “Good Times,” with isolated bass, followed by underlying piano flourishes, before the rhythm guitar finally kicks in.
The only Chic elements missing from “Bounce” were the strings and those staccato female vocals. But hey, a straight rip of “Good Times” might have resulted in legal action courtesy of Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, as “Bounce, Rock, Skate, Roll” was probably the second-most blatant rip of Chic’s classic among all the songs on this list.
As it was, songwriters Mason, Gregory Bufford and Jerome Bell (who also sang lead vocals) never had to share credits with the Chic masterminds.
“A Lover’s Holiday” – Change (April 1980)
If there ever was a band who has been compared to Chic, it was their label mates Change, a group that began as a studio outfit in 1980 under the creation of the late Fred Petrus, then morphed into an actual band for future releases.
Their debut single, “A Lover’s Holiday,” wasn’t so much a copy of “Good Times” as it was a rip of the Chic sound in general. The similarities mostly lie in the sparse, disco production of both groups’ hits, with the staccato female vocals standing out as well (although the singers in Change were given much more latitude than what Edwards and Rodgers would allow Chic’s Alfa Anderson and Luci Martin to have in the studio).
The other thing was that Change’s “Holiday” was still disco when Chic was moving away from the genre (only less than a year after “Good Times”). Ironically, “Holiday” struck a bigger nerve with mainstream listeners than any of Chic’s 1980 singles and even managed to make the pop top 40 at a time when Chic could no longer do it.
“Holiday” led to even more Chic-sounding hits from Change, including 1981’s “Paradise” and ‘82’s “The Very Best In You,” two top-20 R&B singles that still elicit multiple listens from this writer on any given day.
Change also helped to launch the solo career of Luther Vandross, the late legendary R&B crooner who provided lead vocals on two of their follow-up 1980 hits – “Searchin’” and “The Glow Of Love” – and who also happened to back Chic on its first two albums, 1977’s Chic and 1978’s C’est Chic.
“Another One Bites The Dust” – Queen (Aug. 1980)
For anyone who still makes claims to the contrary, please note that Chic’s “Good Times” came out a full year BEFORE Queen’s “Another One Bites The Dust,” and, because of that chronology, Chic could not have possibly copied Queen’s bass line for their own. In fact, it was the other way around.
As the story goes, Queen’s bassist John Deacon had been hanging out in 1979 with Chic’s Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards in their studio, and Deacon used that iconic bass in “Good Times” as inspiration for the song he wrote for his band.
In a way, “Dust” has been the thorn in Chic’s side ever since its release in the summer of 1980. First, there was the misperception of who copied whom. Then “Dust” kicked another Chic creation to the curb when it knocked “Upside Down” by Diana Ross from No. 1 on the Billboard charts in October 1980.
Finally, “Dust” went on to sell more than seven million copies and won several awards for Queen, giving the British group far more recognition than “Good Times” or Chic ever had.
What’s astonishing though is that, even when presented with the chronological facts, there are still those who believe Queen’s “Dust” came first. It’s kinda like history books repeatedly stating that Columbus discovered…oh, never mind.
“Try It Out” – Gino Soccio (May 1981)
By summer 1981, disco eulogies had been written all over the place. By that August, there were zero disco records in the pop top 40, only two years after the genre’s peak in popularity.
That doesn’t mean, however, that disco wasn’t being made – good disco even. And famed Canadian producer/musician Gino Soccio had the biggest disco hit of 1981 with this funk thumper. How much it borrowed from Chic’s “Good Times” or Chic at all is left to one’s judgment. But the song did incorporate some Chic elements, like a prominent bass line throughout and a rhythm guitar track that – at times – channeled Nile Rodgers.
Suffice it to say that there was at least some Chic inspiration in this disco classic (and fellow album-cut “Hold Tight”), even if it was subtle and more tactfully done than any of the other songs on this list. And the fact that Soccio had become Chic’s Atlantic Records label mate at this point in his career (like Narada Michael Walden and Change also on this list) isn’t lost on this writer either.
“The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel” – Grandmaster Flash (May 1981)
Here’s that one song that actually gave a label credit to Chic’s “Good Times,” along with five other songs it heavily sampled, including then-recent hits by Blondie, Sugar Hill Gang, Spoonie Gee, and Queen (see “Another One Bites The Dust” above).
But it was clearly “Good Times” that was this single’s lifeblood, as the Chic tune was cut, mixed and scratched throughout by Grandmaster Flash himself, sometimes in tandem with the other records, sometimes coupled with itself on both turntables and other times in isolation.
“Adventures of Grandmaster Flash” was arguably as pioneering to hip-hop culture as fellow Sugar Hill Records single “Rapper’s Delight” was…heck maybe even more so. Flash ushered in the era of turntable-scratching DJs and illustrated their importance to the rapper/DJ tandem (as would be later shown by legendary hip-hop DJs like Jam Master Jay, Eric B, Spinderella and Jazzy Jeff).
But the punchline to this vignette is similar to the others in this article: none of it likely would have happened – or have been as impactful – had it not been for the heavy use of Chic’s “Good Times.” Even the legendary Grandmaster Flash knew a classic when he saw one.
“On The Beat” – B. B. & Q. Band (July 1981)
This studio band, whose initialized name stood for Brooklyn, Bronx and Queens – the three NYC boroughs from which the group’s members came, was probably more of a Change knockoff than a Chic one, especially considering the band’s mastermind was the late Fred Petrus – the same guy who’d created Change a year earlier.
Still, the ensemble didn’t mind dipping into the Chic well multiple times with “On The Beat,” a top-10 soul chart hit that incorporated more than one Chic trademark element, including a Nile Rodgers-sounding guitar riff throughout, and choppy, staccato female vocals during the chorus – both a lá “Good Times.” The follow-up B.B. & Q. single “Time For Love” was even more Chic sounding than its predecessor.
It’s safe to say that by late 1981, the Chic wannabes – particularly the B. B. & Q. Band and Change – were doing a better Chic impression than Chic itself was (with maybe 1982’s “Soup For One” being the lone exception).
“Wikka Wrap” – The Evasions (July 1981)
Not to be confused with “Jam On It” – the classic by Newcleus – this novelty dance tune actually interpolated a whole bunch of other hits in its lyrical makeup. Mostly, they were then-recent songs by musician Tom Browne (“Funkin’ For Jamaica” and “Thighs High (Grip Your Hips and Move),” the latter of which also formed much of the motif that runs throughout “Wikka Wrap”).
But for two nine-second spurts – at the 4:41 and 6:04 marks on the 12” version – the Evasions found themselves deadpanning the main lyric line to Chic’s “Good Times.” The two brief jaunts ultimately get lost in all the other songs that are either name- or lyric-checked in this campy, early joke of a rap hit, but “Wikka Wrap” did make the top 20 on the Billboard soul chart and is an example of Chic’s influence nonetheless.
It’s an influence that continues to live on in the legacy created by the band itself and the tunes they inspired by others.
For your listening pleasure, here is a Spotify playlist of all these Chic-sounding songs and more. And feel free to comment here on the blog or on the Facebook feed with any other songs you believe belong in this special 40th anniversary recap.
DJRob is a freelance blogger who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop and rock genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff! You can follow him on Twitter @djrobblog.
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