I’ve tackled both the above topics in earlier posts. I want to think about cool people now.
Steve McQueen. He was cool, even despite that hairy tweed jacket/rollneck sweater combo in Bullitt. My jury’s still out on James Dean, but I know many people regard him as the initial embodiment of cool.
The musical world has had its share of cool characters. Oddly, none of the Beatles was/is ever cool. But George Clinton is cool. David Bowie, partly because he was so enigmatic. David Byrne. He’s cool just because he’s so weird, and he deserves special kudos for being cool having been born in Dumbarton, which although nice enough as a place doesn’t sound like the birthplace of anybody cool*.
You’ll all be getting fed up now, so I’ll get to the point. Over the past three Friday nights, BBC4, one of my favourite channels, ran a series of one-hour documentaries on Nile Rodgers. He’s so cool he is Mr Cucumberhead. He out cools Frosty the Snowman.
I imagine some of you might not know who he is, but I pretty much guarantee you know a lot of his music. He, with Bernie Edwards, founded Chic. Despite being about 40 years old, Le Freak** is still the floorfiller of choice at wedding receptions.
Things went a bit wrong with the advent of the ‘Disco Sucks’ movement in 1979. Undeterred, he put on his big boy beret, and went into production and arrangement for others. Others? It’s a pantheon of rock and pop. Sister Sledge. Diana Ross. The Thompson Twins. The Thin White Duke himself. Bryan Ferry (who is still disgustingly cool in his own right.) Madonna. INXS.
The bloke with the waistlength dreads having a riot playing guitar in the video of Daft Punk’s Get Lucky? Guess who that is. Pharrell Williams, Lady Gaga, Christina Aguilera, they’ve all beaten a path to his studio door. Blimey, even Keith Urban has had him along as a co-conspirator, and he’s a country star for goodness sake.
The good news? Mr Rodgers has remained as cool as all get out. He was polite and warmly engaging in the interviews, pretty self effacing, and not afraid to poke fun at himself. Annoyingly, he’s nearly my age and looks a whole heap better than I do, despite a brush with cancer back in 2011.
This year he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer, more talented (he’s a blinding guitar player, even if, as he himself admits, a ‘bit one dimensional’), cooler bloke. And it must have really, really pissed off that redneck Ted Nugent.
*Though Jackie Stewart was also born there, and he’s sort of paradoxically cool.
**Factoid. It was written after the band got turned away from Studio 54 despite being invited by Grace Jones.