Nile Rodgers Felt ‘Sucker Punched’ Learning About Collaborator David Bowie’s Death: Read the Q&A

David Bowie and Nile Rodgers in 1983
David Bowie and Nile Rodgers in 1983 Ebet Roberts/Redferns

One of David Bowie’s most famous collaborators, Nile Rodgers, is opening up about the late singer’s life and legacy. The disco legend and producer exclusively spoke to Us Weekly’s Entertainment Director Ian Drew about Bowie’s wife, supermodel Iman, working with him and so much more.

As previously reported, Bowie succumbed to his cancer battle on Sunday, January 10. The icon died peacefully at the age of 69.

Nile Rodgers
Nile Rodgers Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images

Rodgers, 63 — who’s worked with the likes of Diana Ross, Madonna and Daft Punk — struck up a friendship with Bowie in the ’80s and produced Let’s Dance. Bowie’s infectious commercial pop single of the same name was a far cry from his usually eccentric and versatile style. The music video featured a more natural looking Bowie without any colorful makeup or elaborate persona.

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Read his Q&A about the late star below:

US WEEKLY: How did it feel when you learned of Bowie’s death?
NILE RODGERS: I was completely in shock. It knocked the wind out of my body. I felt like I was sucker punched, if you will.

US: Did all the memories come flooding back?
NR: That didn’t happen right away. My first thought was when they said that he had an 18-month battle with cancer. I was reflecting on the fact that I am five years cancer-free now as of January 4 . . . In a strange way I thought selfishly I wish he had called me and we could have talked about it because I got a lot of moral support from other friends of mine who had dealt with cancer. But then, as quickly as I felt that, I understood why he probably didn’t because we run the gamut of emotions when we’re diagnosed with cancer. It’s the most frightening thing in the world to most of us. (Rodgers was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2010.)

David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust in 1972
David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust in 1972 Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

US: So you had no idea that he had it?
I didn’t have a clue . . . So to hear cancer, which is now so close to me, a few years ago if you had told me five and a half years ago that I’d be diagnosed with cancer, and very aggressive cancer, I would have looked at you and asked, what are you talking about? I’m a rock ‘n’ roll guy. You’re supposed to say Nile is going to go back to drinking or a drug overdose but I haven’t had a drink or drug in almost 22 years. But meanwhile I used to do that every day. So cancer seems like normal people’s disease, not rock ‘n’ roll people. But I’ve now found out that tons of my friends have passed away from cancer.

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US: What did you think of his last album, Blackstar, being about his dying?
NR: I haven’t completely gotten into that. It was released just before his birthdate and as I said I’m working on another record right now . . . I’ve heard it’s profound. According to [record producer] Tony Visconti, he turned it into a work of art.

US: What do you remember about him?
NR: I just liked him. He was such a nice guy. He had such manners, just a nice guy. And the success of ‘Let’s Dance,’ because I didn’t know him before that. I only knew the super superstar. So everything was cool to me. I was at his 50th birthday and had a great time.

David Bowie's 50th Birthday Celebration Concert at Madison Square Garden in New York City
David Bowie’s 50th Birthday Celebration Concert at Madison Square Garden in New York City KMazur/

US: How did you guys keep in touch over the years?
NR: The main way, out of respect, I’d always ask him to perform and do one or two songs with us. ‘Just Dance’ and ‘Modern Love’ or something. I knew it would be the coolest thing in the world, like him singing ‘Under Pressure’ with Freddie Mercury. Imagine David Bowie coming out onstage with Chic, the guys that made the record? But it never happened. He considered it a bunch of times. Just didn’t happen.

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US: How was he with Iman?
NR: I was good friends with Iman before David even met her. She and I were just good buddies. We’d go out together. We both respected each others’ point of view about the world. Iman is a terrifically smart person and with David it was great. She was going out with a guy I thought was so cool. And I thought she’d help me convince him to make a really good pop record!

David Bowie and Iman
David Bowie and Iman in 2002 Dave Benett/Getty Images

US: How should he be remembered?
NR: He will be remembered by different people differently because of his effect on them. Some people don’t realize how innovative he was, they only know one or two songs. They don’t know his whole career. That’s the thing with artists: Sometimes we only find out what they do and the depth of what they do after they’re not here any longer. We will start to find out more about David after he’s gone when people close to him will start to share. Most people would be surprised that he was a terrific painter and an insane, as Al Jarreau calls it, jazzer. His depth of knowledge when it came to jazz was almost on the level of a musicologist.

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