The following exchange occurred on January 30, 2012 as NicolettePost asked music legend Nile Rodgers a question about the moment that changed his life. Click here for the video version.
NicolettePost: My name is Nicolette and I’m a senior at Staples High School.
Nile Rodgers: Hey.
NicolettePost: You’ve obviously been through so much throughout your entire life, which event was it that shaped you the most as to who you are today and that kind of brought you to where you are now?
Nile Rodgers: You mean, like one single event?
NicolettePost: If there was one, or a time period, or anything in specific that you can identify that kind of laid a foundation as to who you became as a person and helped you grow.
Nile Rodgers: Well, I think that it was actually a series of events. It was getting a little bit here and there and then sort of putting a puzzle together which is how I look at it. I remember the day that I sort of got focused and I knew that I was going to be a professional musician. It was at the airport in California and I don’t know if the story was true, but this is what I heard, this is the chatter that was going around the airport. Ray Charles used to own a private plane and they had to do a gig and they were in the plane and it was foggy and blah, blah, blah and somebody at the airport said that Ray Charles landed the plane because he couldn’t see anyway. [Audience laughs.] Seriously. I’m telling you.
So, at this time, I worked at the airport so I knew about instrument landing and ILS and blah, blah, blah and all that kind of stuff and they were having a tough time and the pilot was calling off the positioning and stuff like that. And the rumor around the airport was the Ray Charles landed the plane, saved everybody and then went and did the gig. And I was like, Wow! Are you kidding me? [Audience laughs.]
And for some reason, it sounded to me like musicians, now of course I didn’t think of myself like Ray Charles, I mean he was spectacular, but I just thought that that was the life for me, that musicians could do things that were special and that they cared for others.
The altruistic part of my life was really important. I grew up in the cub scouts, and the boy scouts and in the old days, what happened to little old ladies? Elderly women would wait and we would take them across the street, we did that all the time. There was always somebody waiting there. [Audience laughs.] Did they cure old age and blindness? But when I was a kid, we were always doing that and they would wait for us. So I grew up caring about people and I was socialized to care so when I heard about the Ray Charles thing you know it was just one thing on top of the other.
So music, Ray Charles, plane, fog, saved everybody, hey kid here’s a tip here’s fifty bucks, all of that stuff made music very romantic to me. It was the thing I had to do because it fixed everything in my world. It would fix me hating myself, me feeling ugly, it would also allow me to help other people, it was perfect.
So that’s the event, if you will, that whole Ray Charles thing, but it was really something that was just happening. One day you get to that point you have a Eureka moment and go that’s it, my life is about this and I’m never going the other way. Thank you.
NicolettePost: Thank you.