In the final decadent years of the disco era, the group Chic reached the height of their popularity just as their musical niche was about to disappear. They were fresh, they were sexy, they were massively successful, and while the death of disco brought their recording career to a premature end, what distinguished Chic from the many groups that suffered a similar fate was the enormous influence they would have on the sounds rushed in to take disco’s place–including, perhaps surprisingly, rap. The greatest example of that influence relates to the historic importance of their second #1 hit, “Good Times,” which topped the Billboard Hot 100 on this day in 1979.
The brains behind Chic were Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, the talented performers, songwriters and producers who founded the group in 1976. As the name would imply and the album covers made clear, Chic was very much interested in image, but it was their R&B-influenced sound that really struck a chord with disco crowds and record buyers, who made “Le Freak,” the group’s first #1 hit in December 1978. Chic’s second chart-topper was just as popular on the radio and on the dance-floor in the summer of 1979, but the real impact of “Good Times” would come after it dropped from the charts entirely.
In the autumn of 1979, an aspiring music-industry entrepreneur named Sylvia Robinson decided that the underground club phenomenon known as “rapping” might just be worthy of commercial exploitation. Using the distinctive bass hook and long instrumental breaks of “Good Times” as a backing track, the group that Robinson cobbled together, called The Sugarhill Gang, turned Chic’s disco smash into “Rapper’s Delight,” the first hit record in the history of hip hop.
While creating the foundation for hip hop’s first pop hit may be Chic’s most historically significant contribution to pop music, Rodgers and Edwards continued to exert an influence on pop as prominent producers well after Chic’s heyday. Besides collaboratively composing and producing late disco-era hits like “We Are Family” (1979) for Sister Sledge and “Upside Down” and “I’m Comin’ Out” (both 1980) for Diana Ross, Rodgers and Edwards individually had a hand in the careers of many of the most successful albums of the 1980s, including David Bowie’s Let’s Dance (1983) and Madonna’s Like A Virgin (1984).