For many artists who had made names for themselves in the 60s and 70s, the 80s was an interesting period. The Disco Sucks movement hadn’t killed disco (because that was never going to be the outcome) but, instead, shifted it towards different styles. Synths and drum machines were more widely available and genres like new wave merged punk, rock, jazz, disco, and funk.
David Bowie was no stranger to any of these genres, having dabbled in them throughout his career. But by 1982, he wanted an ‘album of hits’ so he enlisted the help of Nile Rodgers. The disco-funk legend spoke to Fender about his experience turning Bowie’s 1983 hit “Let’s Dance” from a folk song into a post-disco masterpiece.
He told the story of how Bowie came to him with a folk riff, to which he asked if he could play the arrangement. Bowie accepted and in the video, he discussed his transposition of the chords and the octave and shortening the notes. It’s incredible how he changed the entire mood of the song with such small changes and for the benefit of the song and David Bowie himself as ‘Let’s Dance’ became one of his fastest-selling singles in the UK and Bowie’s first (and only) single to top the charts in both the US and the UK. It remains one of the 300 best-selling UK singles of all time.
Fun fact: The guitar solo at the end of ‘Let’s Dance’ was played by the late blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Stream Fender’s ‘Artist Check-In with Nile Rodgers’ and the original demo of ‘Let’s Dance’ (after Nile worked his magic) below.