Nile Rodgers tells the Guardian about his
experiences with food. With his society
drunk-addict parents, and his own
drug consumption, that meant a lot of
Now, he ODs on Earl Grey tea, every day.
I've got some respect for Nile Rodgers because
of how his production work includes many
of the most famous pop songs of the last 40 years.
Plus, he's a surviving ex-drug addict with a
cool view of how to live without that
stuff, cuz most of binging is bullshit
anyway. It's public unease and self abuse,
most of the time.
I'll add some songs after.
He's on twitter too, but kinda boring,
except the pictures with other
So, check this stuff: Guardian
Nile Rodgers: in Chic, I was into cocaine and caviar – now it’s Earl Grey
The musician and producer reveals a childhood of kosher cakes and glue sniffing, and a more grown-up addiction to tea
Sunday 19 April 2015 11.00 BST
My first memory of food is when I was four and was trying to decide whether I preferred the distinctly different tastes of the chocolate or vanilla sides in a tub of Carvel ice cream. It’s an ongoing decision. I’ve bounced back and forth between the two throughout my life.
Others in our family are lighter-skinned, so my mother called me Pud, because I was her chocolate pudding. Her maiden name was Goodman. She was 13 when pregnant with me and I was given up for adoption. Then – with difficulty, after a few months – she retrieved me. So I’m sure I didn’t get the breast but was raised on 1950s commercial formula, like my baby brother Bunchy. He was born when I was six and I became his caretaker because mother had post-partum depression, threatened to kill him and would leave us locked in the apartment. I’d had a pretty lonely infancy, so bottle- and spoon-feeding Bunchy gave me something to concentrate on. I remember the way he’d take food in but also dribble food out and how I’d wipe his mouth with a tiny spoon.
My mother and stepfather Bobby were part of a fairly sophisticated and worldly crowd, including food-wise. But it wasn’t until I was seven that I realised why they’d nod off at the table: because they were junkies. My earliest memory of a day out with Bobby was going for a charlotte russe at a kosher bakery in the Bronx, in 1960. He became irritated because our progress to the custard cake was hindered by a crowd gathered around John Kennedy, a senator campaigning to be president.
The only food I was allergic to was shrimp. I must have had some sort of iodine reaction. Whenever I tasted shrimp I’d become really tingly and numb in and around the mouth. But that never stopped me having shrimp.
My [paternal] grandmother made me amazing Caribbean food. A lot of fish, okra, fungi, creole combinations and pig knuckles and rice, with very hot sauces which make guests exclaim “Jesus! How can you stand it?” when I steam and cook them today, or my Bulgarian housekeeper does.
I remember the first time I stepped off a Greyhound to LA. Gran took me straight to a taco stand for hard shell corn tortilla and it was awesome. While on the west coast I skipped school most days, to watch movies, drink Nestle’s Quik chocolate and sniff glue. The best paper bags for sniffing came out of a popcorn machine.
As a teen I spent a lot of time panhandling and sleeping on the NY subway, or at Woody’s Commune, a crash-pad where you’d pay $2 a night for a bed but also got weed and a great gourmet meal made by Woody’s partner Dave. Then I joined the Black Panthers. They ran a free-breakfasts-for-children programme, using donated end-of-shelf-life food. Demonstrations and confrontations were few and far between; most of the time we were being public servants – cooking and washing dishes.
Concentrating on music in the early 70s, I went healthy on macrobiotic and organic, eating brown rice, wheat and noodles at affordable hippy restaurants. But when. But when I made it with Chic I was into cocaine and expensive cuisine or greasy food at 5 or 6am at a 24-hour Chinese restaurant. People say cocaine suppresses the appetite but it didn’t mine. Diana Ross once faked sickness at a really fancy dinner party so we could go to Queens together for White Castle hamburgers.
In the early 80s I was already going to health spas and doing Jane Fonda workouts – detoxing so I could then get wasted again. But I could only take a few days in a retreat each time. The very bland food in retreats didn’t suit my strong palate and I think it’s no coincidence that all those I went to were in Mexico, or near Mexican restaurants.
Many of my favourite food memories are with Madonna, because we went out a lot when the club scene was changing into a scene where Mary Lou’s and restaurants like that would lock their doors and become after-hours clubs. I remember people saying, “Who’s that girl? Who’s that girl?” over and over again.
Friends started dying because of the lifestyle. I remember the first friend expired while I was across the street buying barbecued ribs. I had psychotic incidents on cocaine and feared losing my ability to play guitar and I gave cocaine and alcohol up in 1994. I thought it would have a huge effect on my tastebuds. One of my favourite things had been eating lots of caviar while drinking lots of vodka, so I thought, “Oh God, I’ll probably never enjoy caviar again.” But caviar still tasted – and tastes – wonderful.
Thanksgiving dinners have become a big thing for me. I remember as a kid when my stepfather had his first heroin overdose on Thanksgiving. I came home from playing in the park for this sumptuous meal and they were rolling him out of the house on a gurney. Nowadays the family gathers for Thanksgiving at the house I bought for my mother in Las Vegas. We took Bobby’s ashes to one of them, with the intention of having our last Thanksgiving together. It always goes well, as far as the food is concerned. Each year we find a more exotic, experimental way of deep frying turkey or something. And we have a tradition of revealing really dark family secrets to each other as we eat. We might run out of them soon, but I expect there’s still a few to come.
I’ve become completely obsessed with Earl Grey in the morning. I hate to admit it, but I typically have an entire pot. I saw a documentary on the effort that goes into creating commercial tea and almost feel bad throwing used tea away… so I use it to flavour my drinking water. Do you think I’m going a bit far?