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Chic’s 1979 hit “Good Times” has inspired or been sampled in so many songs, but the group’s co-founder Nile Rodgers says the track got its inspiration from another iconic R&B band popular in the 70s and 80s.
Billboard magazine named “Good Times” the year’s No. 1 soul single, not knowing its bass line would go on to lay the groundwork for a whole new genre of music birthed in the Bronx. The song reached No 3 on the disco charts, as the genre was slowly giving way to more funk-driven R&B. But on August 18, 1979, for one week, “Good Times” and its infectious groove sat above all others at the top of Billboard’s pop chart.
Rodgers, who wrote and produced the track with the group’s late drummer Bernard Edwards, said the song’s bass line was inspired by the progression done five years earlier by Kool & the Gang in “Hollywood Swinging.”
“Hollywood Swinging” – Kool & the Gang
In a 2015 interview with Sway of SiriusXM, Rodgers explained that his cousin was a member of Kool & the Gang, and his biggest aspiration at the time was to “be like my cousin and be in Kool & the Gang.”
Below, Rodgers talks about his reaction upon hearing “Hollywood Swinging” for the first time in ’74, its influence on “Good Times” and how “Good Times” has gone on to influence The Sugarhill Gang and other important moments in music, including Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” and Blondie’s“Rapture.”
Nile Rodgers Discusses Legendary Bass Line of “Good Times,” Sampling & FOLD! Festival
As Rodgers said in the video above, “Good Times” would influence two records that were debatable “firsts” in hip hop. In addition to its bass line driving The Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” in 1979, it influenced Blondie’s 1981 hit “Rapture,” featuring his friend Debbie Harry as lead singer, and became the first number one hit in the U.S. to be credited as featuring a rap. Hip Hop historians say that neither “Rapper’s Delight’ nor “Rapture” should be considered rap “firsts.” That distinction belonged to “Kim Tim III (Personality Jock)” by The Fatback Band, released mere months before “Rapper’s Delight” in 1979.
“Kim Tim III (Personality Jock)” – The Fatback Band
In Rodgers’ interview with Sway above, he talks about hearing the bass line of “Good Times” in “Rapper’s Delight” for the first time. Several weeks earlier, Blondie and Chic were playing concerts with The Clash at New York club The Palladium. When Chic started playing “Good Times,” rapper Fab Five Freddy and members of the Sugarhill Gang (“Big Bank Hank” Jackson, “Wonder Mike” Wright, and “Master Gee” O’Brien), jumped up on stage and started freestyling with the band.
A few weeks later, Rodgers was at New York club Leviticus and heard the DJ play a song that opened with Edwards’ bass line from “Good Times.” Rodgers angrily approached the DJ and found out that he purchased the song in a record store, and it was titled “Rapper’s Delight.” Rodgers and Edwards promptly threatened the Sugarhill Gang with a copyright infringement lawsuit, but all parties reached a settlement in the end that resulted in Rodgers and Edwards being credited as co-writers on “Rapper’s Delight.”
“Rapper’s Delight” – The Sugarhill Gang
Meanwhile, “Rapture” as a whole is considered new wave, not hip hop. But the extended rap by Harry near the end put it in the category as far as Billboard was concerned. Also, hip hop purists argue that Debbie Harry isn’t really rapping, but “speaking” her rhymes.
“Rapture” – Blondie
In an interview with NME, Bernard Edwards said of Queen bass player John Deacon and their 1980 track “Another One Bites the Dust”: “That Queen record came about because that Queen bass player … spent some time hanging out with us at our studio.”
“Another One Bites the Dust” – Queen
Following its week at No. 1, beginning 41 years ago today, “Good Times” was dethroned by another song with an identifiable bass line…