It was party central last night (Aug. 28) in Beverly Hills when prolific music legend and Chic innovator Nile Rodgers was feted as BMI’s Icon Award honoree. The occasion was the organization’s 2015 R&B/Hip-Hop Awards.
“The first time I heard someone playing back a song I wrote — and it wasn’t me — was the most amazing day of my life,” Rodgers told Billboard on the red carpet. “I walked into a club and the DJ had two copies of my record. I thought I was gonna die — and I’ve been chasing that high ever since.” That particular song was the first tune Rodgers ever wrote for Chic, “Everybody Dance.”
The evening also celebrated the songwriters, producers and publishers of the top 35 most-performed songs of the previous year. John Legend’s “All of Me” was crowned Song of the Year, which counts two million performances over the last year. Thanks to a string of 10 hits including “2 On,” “I Don’t F— With You” and “Paranoid,” DJ Mustard was a double winner as Songwriter and Producer of the Year. The latter honor marked Mustard’s second consecutive win of the coveted award.
Universal Music Publishing Group received Publisher of the Year kudos for having 18 of the most-performed songs. As voted by fans via Twitter and Instagram, singer/songwriter SoMo won the BMI Social Star Award.
Setting the evening’s vibrant tone were B.o.B., who opened with a medley of his hits, followed by ILoveMakonnen (“Tuesday”). But there was no denying that the man of the hour was Rodgers. And the hour-long tribute to him rhythmically and succinctly drove that point home. Music director Rickey Minor (American Idol) led the band in a rousing rendition of the Chic classic “Dance, Dance, Dance.” Deborah Cox’s cover of Diana Ross’ Rodgers-produced hit “I’m Coming” nearly brought the remaining house down immediately thereafter. Prior to her performance, Cox noted that Rodgers’ songs by Ross, David Bowie, Madonna and others “was the soundtrack of my adolescence. I was inspired by them.”
Also paying lively tribute to Rodgers in song were Empire’s V. Bozeman (Chic’s “I Want Your Love”); Kelly Price (Ross’ “Upside Down”), whose performance sparked an encore; Kathy Sledge (“We Are Family”) and Cee Lo Green (Bowie’s “Let’s Dance”). Declaring that “R&B is what he gets up for in the morning,” Rodgers closed the night with Chic’s “Good Times” as Public Enemy frontman Chuck D popped up to deliver a few verses of “Rapper’s Delight.”
BMI president/CEO Mike O’Neill and vice president, writer/publisher relations (Atlanta) Catherine Brewton co-hosted the evening with R&B artist/actor Ray J. Spotted in the house during the awards show: previous Icon honoree Snoop Dogg, Tyrese, Sevyn Streeter, singer/actor Evan Ross and producer Dallas Austin. See a complete list of 2015 BMI R&B/Hip-Hop winners here.