Happy Birthday to Bernard Edwards born – October 31, 1952 – April 18, 1996
Edwards, who was born in Greenville, North Carolina, and grew up in Brooklyn, New York City, met Nile Rodgers in the early 1970s. The two formed the Big Apple Band (active 1972–1976) and then united with drummer Tony Thompson to eventually form Chic together with singer Norma Jean Wright.
With Chic (active 1976–1983), Edwards created era-defining hits such as “Dance, Dance, Dance”, “Everybody Dance”, “Le Freak”, “I Want Your Love” and “Good Times”. Edwards also worked with Nile Rodgers to produce and write for other artists, using Chic to perform everything musically and vocally except lead vocals. Those productions with Norma Jean Wright, Sister Sledge, Sheila and B. Devotion, Diana Ross, Johnny Mathis, Debbie Harry and Fonzi Thornton led to more hits such as “Saturday”, “He’s The Greatest Dancer”, “We Are Family”, “Spacer”, “Upside Down”, “I’m Coming Out” and “Backfired”. In the song “We Are Family,” Kathy Sledge gives Edwards a brief shout-out, singing “Yeah, come on Bernard, play…play your funky bass, boy!”. As a lone songwriter/producer, he gave Diana Ross her Top 15 hit, “Telephone” off of her 1985 platinum “Swept Away” album released on RCA and Ross’ international label, Capitol-EMI.
Edwards released a solo album in 1983, and in 1985 he was instrumental in the formation of the supergroup Power Station. The band’s first album was produced by Edwards and featured Chic drummer Tony Thompson, and Duran Duran members John and Andy Taylor as well as singer Robert Palmer. Edwards followed this by producing Robert Palmer’s hit album Riptide. He continued to produce artists throughout the 1980s and 90s. Among others, he worked with Diana Ross, Adam Ant, Rod Stewart, Grayson Hugh, Air Supply, ABC and Duran Duran.
Edwards was the father of multi-platinum record producer Bernard “Focus…” Edwards, Jr. who has produced songs for Jennifer Lopez, Beyoncé, Busta Rhymes, Bishop Lamont, Tony Yayo and more.
Edwards teamed up with Nile Rodgers again for the Chic reunion in the early 1990s and released the album Chic-Ism in 1992.
In 1996 Nile Rodgers was named JT Superproducer of the Year in Japan, and was invited to perform there with Chic in April of that year. Just before the concert at the Budokan Arena in Tokyo, Edwards fell ill, but despite Rodgers’ insistence, refused to cancel the gig. He managed to perform but had to be helped at times. At one point, Edwards blacked out for a few seconds before resuming his playing. Rodgers assumed the absence of bass was a deliberate improvisation and did not learn the truth until after the show. After the concert, Nile went to check on Bernard and asked how he was doing, to which he replied “I’m fine, I just need to rest.” This was the last time Nile spoke to Bernard. Edwards retired to his hotel room where he was later found dead by Rodgers. The cause of death was ruled to be pneumonia. Edwards’ final performance was later issued as the album Live at the Budokan.