Bassist/producer Bernard Edwards, best known for his fluid
grooves with the band Chic, died April 20th in Tokyo at the age of 43. Edwards,
who had told friends he felt ill earlier in the day, reportedly succumbed
to a sudden and acute case of pneumonia. He was found in his hotel room
bed by guitarist Nile Rodgers, his partner and Chic co-founder. The band,
which reunited in 1992 with the release of Chic-ism [Warner Bros.], was
on tour in Japan at the time. A funeral was held in the Connecticut town
where Edwards resided.
Born in North Carolina, Edwards moved to New York City,
where he hooked up with Rodgers and drummer Tony Thompson in the early '70s.
The Chic trio reeled off such prime disco-era hits as "Dance, Dance,
Dance," "Le Freak," "Everybody Dance" and the much-copied
"Good Times." Although disco waned in the early '80s, Chic's sound,
cemented over six albums, lived on to influence the ensuing dance, new wave,
and rap movements, and it continues to endure today. Rodgers and Edwards
became sought after as major pop producers; Edwards produced records by
Rod Stewart, Diana Ross, Robert Palmer, Hall & Oates,
Sister Sledge, and the Power Station (whose just-completed upcoming album
will stand as his final project).
A shocked and saddened Roger Sadowsky noted, "Bernard
had been a regular client for over 15 years, and in all that time he was
always very sweet and easy-going. He was in my shop the week before he left
for Japan, and he appeared to be in good health. The man and his music will
be sorely missed." In a September '92 Bass Player article, Edwards
described his style succinctly: "My role is to keep the bottom there,
to keep the groove solid and steady. I don't like to get too note-y."
Of his remarkable chemistry with Rodgers, which is sure to earn the duo
a place in the pantheon of great groovemakers, he added, "My part is
usually a reaction to a rhythm of Nile's. I consider the two of us a rhythm
section, even without the drums, because we keep so much rhythm going on."
After a life too short, Edwards has left behind enough rhythm to keep the
rest of us going for a long, long time.