Words by Jesse Serwer
As the guitarist of the band Chic and one half of the Chic Organization production/songwriting team with bassist Bernard Edwards, Nile Rodgers was the driving force behind the disco era’s best music. Besides for Chic’s numerous hits (“Le Freak,” “Good Times”) and underrated gems (“My Feet Keep Dancing,” “Real People”), Rodgers, along with Edwards, was behind the sound of Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family” and Diana Ross’ “I’m Coming Out,” to name a few undeniable classics from that period. And of course the Rodgers hit parade continued into the post-disco era, and the current day. But you already knew all this.
Here’s something you might not know: In 1982, with the group’s (and disco’s) popularity on the wane, Chic were called upon to produce the soundtrack for the movie Soup For One. It was a film so bad that it would have been completely forgotten, if not for its brilliant soundtrack.
The lead single was notable for being one of Rodgers and Edwards’ only forays into reggae, or at least their Chic-ified version of it: Carly Simon’s “Why.” Why did Nile and Bernard “go reggae” with Carly Simon? Well, we can come up with a few possibilities. Carly dated Mick Jagger in the early ’70s, right around the time the Stones were recording Goat’s Head Soup in Jamaica and striking up a kinship with Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. An even stronger link to reggae is the singer’s brother, Peter Simon, a photographer known for his iconic shots of Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Gregory Isaacs. Yeah, he took that picture of Mick, Keith and Peter that was on your college roommate’s wall.
Simon’s “Why” was no big hit in its day, but, like much of Rodgers’ music, it’s been rediscovered in the last few years, especially by DJs. It didn’t take that long for Jamaica to revive it, however. In 1992, producers Steely & Clevie cut a lovers rock version of “Why” with vocalist Suzanne Couch that’s pretty good in its own right. Couch’s name, meanwhile, might be familiar for another reason: she’s also a chef who’s resume includes creating the jerk sauce for Miss Lily’s restaurant in NYC, and who once had LargeUp over for dinner.
Here’s Carly Simon’s cheeky video for “Why”—like Soup For One the movie, it’s corny, but eminently enjoyable for nostalgic purposes—and Couch’s version of “Why.”
Oh, and happy birthday, Nile Rodgers.