Rodgers

Q&A with Nile Rodgers: Sinatra, disco and how a trip to the bathroom led to the Diana Ross song ‘I’m Coming Out’

Q: You told me that at one point, you were getting called by famous people who wanted you to make their disco album. Including Frank Sinatra.

A: At some point in time, disco was so dominant in the music scene, everybody figured that all they had to do was a disco record and they’d have a hit record. A very famous flutist named Herbie Mann had a record called “Hijack.” A woman named Esther Phillips made “What a Diff’rence a Day Makes” with the jazz guitar player Joe Beck. So people just thought, that’s what you’ve got to do, make records that people want to dance to and you get a hit. And Frank Sinatra was no different than anyone else. He loved having hit records.

Q: Didn’t Aretha Franklin also ask?

A: Aretha wanted us to make a record called “I’m Going to Be the Only Star Tonight Down at the Disco.” And [producer] Bernard [Edwards] and I flatly refused. But we felt so bad. We’re like, “Wait a minute. Give us a chance. Let us make an ultra-soulful Aretha record. You do not have to do a disco record. You’re the Queen of Soul.” But sometimes record companies, they just get in an artist’s head and they think that that’s what they have to do. And maybe she believed that, too. But we wouldn’t do it. And a guy named Van McCoy, who did a song called “The Hustle,” he did the record.

Q: You wrote an amazing autobiography. Tell us about how you ran into a bunch of people dressed like Diana Ross at a club.

A: During the Studio 54 era, clubs in midtown Manhattan were just the thing. So every night we would go club-hopping. On this particular night, I went to a club called