Bernard Edwards' supple, big-bottom bass lines powered platinum hits by Chic, the '70s dance/pop band that he co-founded with guitarist/songwriter/producer Nile Rodgers. The bassist co-wrote and produced all of Chic's records as well as those the duo produced for Diana Ross, Sister Sledge, and others. Edwards later recorded with ABC, Rod Stewart, Power Station, Starpoint, Missing Persons, and Nona Hendryx, among others.
Born October 31, 1952, in Greenville, NC, Edwards met Rodgers in 1970. They began playing at New York jazz clubs and taverns. With drummer Tony Thompson they formed the Big Apple Band, which backed the live concerts of vocal group New York City. The two can be heard on Walter Murphy & the Big Apple Band's gold single "A Fifth of Beethoven" (number ten R&B, number one pop, spring 1976). Forming Chic, the group sold their instruments to raise money to record tracks to secure a major-label record deal. They received the inevitable rejections until they finally got a deal with Atlantic Records through president Jerry Greenberg. Their first single, "Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)," started out as a huge dance club hit and went gold hitting number six R&B/pop on Billboard's charts in fall 1977. Chic's biggest hit "Le Freak" parked at number one R&B for five weeks, number one pop in fall 1978, returning to the top spot three times. It became the biggest selling single in Atlantic Records' history, selling over four million copies.
With so much success, Rodgers and Edwards became in-demand songwriters/producers. Atlantic Records told them that they could work with any artist on their roster. Rodgers and Edwards chose one of the label's lesser-known acts, reasoning that if they came up with a hit for a superstar act, the act would get the bulk of the recognition and the credit and not themselves. The duo chose to produce a four-sister teenage act called Sister Sledge signed to its Atco subsidiary. Their first single with Rodgers and Edwards, issued on Atlantic's Cotillion label, was "He's the Greatest Dancer," which hit number one R&B and number two pop in spring 1979. "We Are Family," the title track of Sister Sledge's third album, had already received massive dance club and radio play when it was issued as a single, going to number one R&B, number two pop in summer 1979. Diana Ross worked with the duo and was rewarded with a platinum album, Diana, and dual charting singles: "Upside Down" and "I'm Coming Out." The duo also produced Debbie Harry's gold LP KooKoo.
By the mid-'80s, Rodgers and Edwards were no longer producing together exclusively. Both men embarked on illustrious production careers. Edwards produced and played in '80s supergroup Power Station ("Some Like It Hot"); produced ABC's "When Smokey Sings," Ross' "Telephone," and Rod Stewart; and played bass on the Rodgers-produced Madonna LP Like a Virgin and Jody Watley's "Don't You Want Me." At the age of 43, Edwards died of pneumonia while touring with Chic in Tokyo, Japan, on April 18, 1996. ~ Ed Hogan