The prestigious award is presented annually to an individual who exemplifies the spirit of the late, great Les Paul through innovation, engineering, technology and/or music. In addition to the award, a grant from the Les Paul Foundation and Bonnaroo Works Fund will be made in Nile Rodgers’ name to the charity of his choice which aligns with the mission of the Les Paul Foundation. Like Les Paul, Nile Rodgers personifies a spirit of excellence through musicianship, production and industry-wide recognition.
Among music legends, Nile Rodgers is exceptional. He amplifies his own legacy constantly traveling new musical terrain and successfully expanding the boundaries of popular music. As the co-founder of CHIC, Rodgers pioneered a musical language that generated chart-topping pop hits like “Le Freak” and sparked the advent of hip hop with “Good Times.” His work in the CHIC organization and his productions from artists like David Bowie and Madonna have sold over 500 million albums and 75 million singles worldwide while his innovative, trendsetting collaborations with Daft Punk, Avicii, Disclosure and Sam Smith reflect the vanguard of contemporary music. Fueling four decades of pop anthems with more than 200 production credits in his name, the scope of Rodgers’ peerless influence is undeniable.
Beyond the CHIC Organization, Rodgers has achieved commercial and critical triumphs for artists including Duran Duran (“The Reflex”), Madonna (“Like a Virgin”) and David Bowie (“Let’s Dance”). He has worked with legendary icons including Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan, Steve Winwood, Grace Jones, Bryan Ferry, Peter Gabriel, Eric Clapton and countless others. He has scored music for films like the blockbuster “Coming to America” (1988) and distributing soundtracks for popular AAA video games. He is also Chairman and Founder of the We Are Family Foundation (WAFF), a non-profit he launched in 2002 that’s dedicated to the vision of a global family by creating and supporting programs that promote cultural diversity.
“Anything worth doing, is worth overdoing” – Nile Rodgers“Nile Rodgers is an extraordinary talent that completely defines the word innovative,” said Michael Braunstein, Executive Director of The Les Paul Foundation. “His personal story and great successes in the music industry cannot be overlooked and certainly not forgotten. He has been at the forefront of creating some of the most memorable music of our time. If Les was here today I can guarantee you that Nile and he would have already collaborated on numerous occasions. I am honored to present this year’s Les Paul Spirit Award to such an outstanding recipient and I also want to thank Bonnaroo Works Fund for partnering with us on this exciting annual award which will continue to honor the true innovators of our industry.”
Rodgers was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2017, The Songwriters Hall of Fame and was awarded the “EBONY” Icon Award at the EBONY Power 100 Event in Los Angeles. He was also bestowed the “Ordre des Arts et des Lettres” medal by the French Embassy in New York, was elected to the NARAS Board of Governors and received the President’s Merit Award during the Recording Academy’s 8th Annual GRAMMY Week Celebration for the Producers & Engineers Wing of NARAS.
Nile Rodgers was honored at an intimate Bonnaroo Works Fund event “Bonnaroo Eats & Greets” held on what would have been Les Paul’s 103rd birthday, Saturday, June 9, 2018. The Les Paul Spirit Award was presented to Rodgers by Michael Braunstein, Executive Director of the Les Paul Foundation and featured performances from Notes for Notes youth performers and a conversation with Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival founders.
The prestigious award is physically like no other. Made from actual hand-carved acoustic boards built by Les Paul himself, each year’s recipient is presented a one-of-a-kind piece of actual Les Paul memorabilia from his home studio, which he designed and created during his lifetime. The original acoustic wood panel has been carefully designed for hanging and is supported by Les’ personal story of how they were created. No two awards will ever be exactly the same, given the unique nature of the studio pieces which are being used to create it. “It is a true piece of original Les Paul art and technology,” said Braunstein.
In addition to the presentation of the Les Paul Spirit Award, The Les Paul Foundation partnered with Bonnaroo Works Fund on several activations on-site at the Bonnaroo Music Festival. The Les Paul Foundation hosted an official Les Paul activation at the Bonnaroo Works Fund Community Center each day. Additionally the Les Paul Foundation unveiled an assortment of new Les Paul merchandise sold exclusively at The Bonnaroo Works Fund tent and conducted daily giveaways of Les Paul prize packs and guitars.
PHOTOGRAPHY CREDIT: Mandi Nulph