Nile Rodgers pays tribute to Thom Bell
Nile Rodgers has hailed Thom Bell as “one of the greatest musical geniuses of our time”.
The Grammy Award-winning producer – who was best known as one of the Mighty Three co-creators of the Sound of Philadelphia along with Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff – passed away on Thursday (22.12.22) at the age of 79 and the Chic star has admitted he always “worshipped” the songwriter and arranger.
He told Rolling Stone magazine: I worshipped Thom Bell. He was one of the greatest musical geniuses of our time. I think of him in the same way as Stevie Wonder or Burt Bacharach or Lennon and McCartney. He was on that level.
“Sometimes people take music for granted, ‘It’s a pop song.’ But when you dissect it and really listen to it and take it apart and understand it on a granular level, those records he made have some of the best arrangements you can imagine, up there with Bacharach, Mancini, and Bach.”
Nile praised Thom for taking his songs away from the “traditional” R’n’B formula, which he credited to him being a “seriously schooled musician”.
He added: “By listening to his arrangements, instrumentation, and orchestration, you can tell Thom was classically trained, a seriously schooled musician.
“If you looked at traditional R’n’B records at the time, they were more gospel and blues based, if you will. That wasn’t where Thom was coming from. He represented an air of sophistication and elegance. It was soul music that was orchestral and beautiful.
“Whenever I would see the name Thom Bell on the records, I knew the music was going to be classy and soulful.”
And the 70-year-old musician admitted Thom had a huge impact on his own career.
He said: “That sound was so much a part of music I loved and respected that when I finally formed my own band, we believed we were the next generation of Black upward mobility. We were not a gutbucket funk band. We weren’t the Ohio Players or Earth, Wind and Fire. We were totally Thom Bell-inspired, and that’s why we had strings and Luther Vandross as our background singer.
“It was classy, which is what Thom represented to me and to a lot of other people. This was not just hardcore, sweaty funk and R’n’B. This was the beginning of a shimmery, very elegant type of R’n’B, which was the inspiration for everything that I would do in my band Chic.”