With all of us feeling worse for wear after a long night of partying back in my Duran Duran days, Chic co-founder, mega producer, and composer Nile Rodgers said to me “come on Jewels, when the going gets tough, the tough go shopping.”  That phrase has brought a smile to my lips many times through life’s ups and downs over the past few decades (although I’m not sure my accountant is equally impressed by it).

Brett Ratner, Nile Rodgers, Julie Anne & Nick Rhodes

Well, shopping I did again last night. At Book Soup where my old friend signed copies of his newly released autobiography, Nile Rodgers Le Freak followed by a lively Q&A with film director Brett Ratner. Two masters

Nile signing books that flew off the shelves in the jam packed store

of story telling with a history of friendship and exploits between them rich enough to write a sequel on the spot. I’m only a few chapters in myself, and have heard many of the stories directly from Nile himself, but what blows me away is how much more vivid they become on the written page. He has proven himself to be an equally gifted writer as he is maestro of all things musical.

Nile and Brett’s Q&A at Book Soup

This is not just another ‘whoops you dropped another one” name-dropping, rock and roll tell all book – although Nile can drop more names than most. Chic consistently topped the charts during the disco era and gave birth to hip hop with Rapper’s Delight, then went on to produce some of the biggest names in music history including Madonna, Diana Ross, David Bowie, Duran Duran… I’d need ten blog posts to list them all. While fascinating and certainly juicy, that is only one side to the multifaceted man whose life has been anything but ordinary. What makes this book so gripping is the searingly honest account of a life that began with an unwanted teen pregnancy, and quest to reconcile all that led him to being the extraordinary man he is today. Hence the rave reviews from the N.Y Times and Rolling Stone Magazine amongst many.

I was fortunate enough to witness part of the relentless five year journey it took Nile to write the book. An interview with his family in Las Vegas ran late one evening, and the film crew had to catch a flight back to New York, so Nile asked me to sit across from Beverly (his mother – as if I were the interviewer to keep her sight line) while he let the camera roll and finished interrogating her. There I sat, looking directly into her eyes as she matter-of-factly divulged every minute, intimate detail of their (to put it mildly) colorful lives. It was one of the most intense and oddly beautiful experiences of my life. The family love in that room, no matter how unconventional, was so dense you could cut it with a knife.

Stories galore back at Brett’s house afterwards

Nile has a way of evoking that from all who know him. The warmth continued at Brett Ratner’s house after the book signing – with food, drinks, tributes and stories galore. Brett torturing Madonna in the studio with his first ever video 8 camera, given to him by Nile, when he was only twelve years old, (at sixteen he directed her MTV Award winning video, Beautiful Stranger). Nile speaking about his good fortune, in an industry not exactly known for it’s kindness, with people like Jerry Greenberg, Suzanne de Passe, and business partner Michael Austin (all in attendance)  considered not just colleagues and friends, but family. Then Bryan Ferry turned up to pay his respect, while Nile cracked us all up about how he and Bernard Edwards originally based Chic on Roxy Music. While certainly an extremely chic man today, it was hard to reconcile Nile with the suave Mr. Ferry and the Louis Vuitton suit Brett had described Nile wearing back in the 70’s, literally made from the luggage.

Nile Rodgers, Bryan Ferry, and Jerry Greenberg

I was just relieved to throw my arms around my friend for the first time after his difficult year of battling cancer. Even through that, he chose to inspire and support others going through the same with his blog Planet C.

Nile Rodgers and Julie Anne Rhodes

Thankfully, we can all look forward to the many chapters he hasn’t written yet. On October 24th Nile will be honored in New York at the 10th Gala Celebration of We Are Family, the charity he founded shortly after 9/11. The event will be hosted by Rosie Perez with performances from Jackson Browne, the B52’s and of course, The Chic Organization. Next up? A Broadway musical he’s composed called Double Time, based on Impresario Leonard Harper. Set in both the 1920’s and present day – it is meant to be the follow-up musical he would have written had Mr. Harper’s life not been cut so tragically short. Nile Rodger Le Freak is out now.

Le Freak-n-Great Chicken Soup

It’s that soup time of year again, so what better time to serve up Le Freak-n-Great Chicken Soup? This is my adaptation of a soup Nile Rodgers made for me once, when I was visiting a cousin in Connecticut, and popped in for dinner. It’s definitely a top ten hit with clients, members, and my family alike, thanks for inspiration Nile!

SERVES: 6

Ingredients:

3 Tablespoons butter
1 whole chicken cut into pieces
1 onion, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 red peppers, cored, seeded, and chopped
3 tablespoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1/2 cup tomato paste
6 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper, to taste
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2/3 lb. egg noodles or 2 cups corn
sour cream, optional

Directions:

1). Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.

2). Season chicken with salt, pepper, and a pinch of the paprika mixture. Brown chicken, in batches, on all sides, transfer to a plate and cover loosely with foil to keep warm.

3). Melt remaining tablespoon of butter, add onions, celery, red peppers, garlic, paprika, and cayenne. Cook until softened and onions are translucent; about 7-8 minutes.

4). Add chicken broth, stir well, scraping up all the gooey bits off the bottom of the pan.

5). Add chicken back to the pot, bring to boil, cover and simmer 25-30 minutes. Remove chicken pieces, allow to cool slightly (enough to handle), then remove skin and bones, and cut into chunks, to add back into soup.

6). Add tomato paste, caraway seeds, noodles or corn, and cook for an additional 5-8 minutes.

Serving suggestion:

Serve hot with a dollop of sour cream if desired.

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  • October 20, 2011
    5:24 pm

    Fantastic! Such talent with such a humble spirit. What a huge gift both have given the world.

    • October 20, 2011
      6:03 pm

      Thank you Rachel, but Nile is in a whole league of his own.

  • October 20, 2011
    4:00 pm

    I ordered mine this week from Amazon. Can’t wait to read it!

    • October 20, 2011
      4:10 pm

      The man has certainly lived an extraordinary life, and damn, he can write!

  • October 20, 2011
    4:06 pm

    Love that saying Jewels and it’s one we used in our family too,wonderful pics, the lovely Nile what can I say I have nothing but the utmost respect for him he helped me accept the loss of my mother he is a good friend to me and I hope we get to meet one day so I can thank him properly, his little smiles in my in box always make me smile, hope my messages of support were useful to him too they always came straight from my heart. I envy you Jewels for having Nile as a close friend and I love the recipe too by the way.

  • October 20, 2011
    4:13 pm

    Trust me, I’m grateful for his friendship – he’s continually inspired and cheered me on (and sometimes kicked my a**) when I’ve needed it most. So happy he was able to do the same for you, Debs.

    • October 20, 2011
      4:21 pm

      I am sure he feels the same way Jewels, not got the kick up the a** yet but there again we have not had a chance to meet yet the one time he is in England and I have more hospital treatment and its a 2 week recovery time but that’s ok main thing is I am still here :-), I believe in fate if it’s meant to happen it will happen.

      • October 20, 2011
        4:26 pm

        He knows you need TLC, not a KUTA. So glad you are still here with the friends, and attitude you need to get through this.

  • October 20, 2011
    4:33 pm

    what a great post, Julie Anne! I look forward to getting Nile’s book.

    Extraordinary man. I don’t have the pleasure of knowing him, but I definitely have the pleasure of a ton of his work residing in my iPhone!

    • October 20, 2011
      4:35 pm

      My favorite quote of the night came from a man in the audience, “thank you Mr. Rodgers for providing the music that became the soundtrack of my existence.”

  • October 20, 2011
    5:33 pm

    Ah at least you got to see Bryan Ferry upclose even if you missed the concert! He still makes me swoon :) Nobody wears a suit as well as Bryan.. sigh…
    And Niles is a positive force I love reading his blog when I’m feeling down or uninspired.

    • October 20, 2011
      6:09 pm

      I’ve bumped into Bryan on many occasions through the years. All I can say is the man is a million time more handsome and debonair in person than photos ever give him credit for.

      Nile is the epitome of positive. Read his book, and you’ll see just how strong that mental and creative resolve is.

  • October 20, 2011
    5:36 pm

    The soup looks fab. I’ll leave out the egg noodles and corn to adapt it to my special dietary restrictions we talked about at that very special book signing. Any low carb veggies that you would suggest to replace the noodles for heartiness? Thank you!!! I’m reading my cherished signed copy of Le Freak and loving it!

  • October 20, 2011
    6:11 pm

    Yes Simone, try some spaghetti squash – it will at least give you some of the texture (I use it a lot), and I’d probably sub chopped zucchini for the corn.

  • October 21, 2011
    10:59 am

    i love him! he’s an amazing talent. i’m glad that he is as nice of a person as he looks.
    also, i’m copy/pasting this recipe into my recipe folder, thank you!! i love chicken soup. it might be the jewish in me but still…

  • October 21, 2011
    11:10 am

    Thank you! Will be making it tomorrow. Xo

  • October 21, 2011
    11:13 am

    I meant to add love the pic of the soup. What a gorgeous presentation! I use white dishes, as well. Food always looks so much more appetizing on plain white. :)

  • October 21, 2011
    11:42 am

    Oh, how I love Nile Rodgers! He is so kind, and so gracious, on top of being a creative genius.

    And that soup looks amazing. Guess I know what I’ll be cooking this weekend.

    • October 21, 2011
      12:31 pm

      Seriously, that soup was so good, it was the first thing I made when I arrived home. Nile uses just a little corn instead of noodles, but I’m a noodle freak.

  • October 21, 2011
    11:57 am

    JA this soup looks fanbloodytastic… i am SO making it.
    I adore Nile Rodgers and appreciate you dedicating this blog to him today! AWESOME Jewels!

  • October 21, 2011
    12:32 pm

    It is delish, and filling on a cold autumn or winter night.

  • October 21, 2011
    1:58 pm

    I needs me my chicken soup.
    And I need to read this book. I love autobiographies.
    Nile had a large part in my favorite album of all time: Duran Duran- Notorious.

    • October 22, 2011
      5:43 pm

      Mmmmmmm soup and book sound perfect to me right about now!

  • October 21, 2011
    4:28 pm

    Aww, so good to see Bryan in the mix, I was just wondering the other day what he’s been up to lately.

    • October 22, 2011
      5:44 pm

      He’s been touring and has an art exhibition that opened here in LA Thursday evening. Nile played on his last album.

  • October 22, 2011
    5:44 am

    Love the soup Jewels.
    I just made a huge batch of Vegetable soup which Mia and hubby love. I myself love chicken soup but unfortunately I don’t eat it that often only because my hubby does not eat chicken. I too am a “noodle freak”, so the noodles in this chicken soup would suit my palate to a tea. I can taste it already!
    Looking forward to an interesting read on Nile and his extraordinary life when I buy on line.

    • October 22, 2011
      5:46 pm

      Hey Aussie Mum – try boiling a chicken in a separate pot in chicken broth until cooked, tender, and meat is falling off the bone. Cool, then shred the chicken and store in some of the broth. When you servre the vegetable soup to your husband, you can add chicken to yours and it will be equally yummy for both of you.

  • October 22, 2011
    6:53 am

    That soup sounds delish!

    • October 22, 2011
      5:47 pm

      I love making soups – one of my favorite things to make.

  • October 22, 2011
    5:29 pm

    Love chicken noodle soup! It always warms me up on chilly days. I wonder about using barley instead of noodles – just for a switch up. Sounds like you had a wonderful reunion with a long time friend! Those are days to be treasured.

  • October 22, 2011
    5:48 pm

    Barley would be delicious Ruthee – may have to give that a whirl myself. I love barley, but always forget about using it.

    • October 23, 2011
      5:51 pm

      I’ve wondered about trying to make a barley risotto. It seems plauasable to me that it could be done. Maybe will experiment this week and see what I can come up with. Just got funding for the next month so groceries are in order! :) One big bag of barley coming up. That’s after I pay the vet for Molly’s check up tomorrow!

      • October 23, 2011
        6:07 pm

        I have a recipe somewhere for for butternut squash & Barley risotto. It isn’t as creamy but still yummy.

  • October 23, 2011
    10:19 am

    Love this … the memories, the story, and the chicken soup.

    Beautiful story.

    • October 23, 2011
      11:19 am

      Too much happening at once – wanted to do one on your tallented son #1 too. Love Charley’s photos – have been telling everyone to go see the show.

  • October 24, 2011
    8:00 am

    Thank you for this post!We(LARA..my partner of 25 years) are BIG Time Fans of Chic and just got to see them last week on SOUL TRAIN! It’s hard to believe that most of the band has passed on.
    Thank you again and I will BUY THIS BOOK!

    • October 24, 2011
      10:12 am

      I know what you mean. I could practically see Bernard and Tony’s faces in that book store as Nile spoke. Sad, but I think Nile has done a great (and humble) job of keeping Bernard’s memory alive and giving credit where credit is due.

  • November 8, 2011
    10:11 pm

    I love your recipes and stories Julie Anne!
    But, I have a question for you. In the above blog, you mentioned that Brett Ratner directed Madonna’s Beautiful Stranger video at age sixteen. However, that must be incorrect since Brett was born in 1969 and the Beautiful Stranger video came out in 1999 (making him about 30 yrs old – not 16).

  • November 8, 2011
    10:56 pm

    Nile told me Brett had just directed a Madonna video when that pic was taken, so I did a search for videos he directed for her – guess I got that one wrong, my bad.