Nile Rodgers: Diana Ross didn’t know ‘I’m Coming Out’ was ‘a homosexual factor’

When Diana Ross needed to show her legendary music profession “Upside Down” on the daybreak of the ’80s, she enlisted the Stylish manufacturing staff of Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards.

“That was our very first time ever producing a star,” says Rodgers. “Not solely was it a star, it was, like, the star.”

However Rodgers and Edwards helped make that famous person shine brighter than ever: Ross’ traditional “Diana” album — launched 40 years in the past on Could 22, 1980 — went on to grow to be the best-selling LP of her profession with hits corresponding to “Upside Down” and the homosexual anthem “I’m Coming Out.” And maybe extra considerably, it set the twirling template for the entire diva dance-pop that might come after that, from Madonna and Janet Jackson to Beyoncé.

It was a tough, transitional time for Ross initially of the post-disco period. “The disco period ended in the summertime of ’79, and she or he got here out the following 12 months,” says Rodgers. “So we needed to make a file that wasn’t disco.”

Rodgers and his late companion, Edwards, had confirmed themselves to be disco dynamos, producing hits corresponding to “Le Freak” and “Good Occasions” for their very own group Stylish, in addition to Sister Sledge’s smash “We Are Household.” However now they needed to present that they had been extra than simply disco, with Ross eager to courtroom a youthful viewers. “She didn’t say, ‘Effectively I’m making an attempt to make an album for the children,’ ” says Rodgers. “However she knew that’s what we had been doing.”

Diana Ross
Diana RossUnited Archives by way of Getty Pictures

To that finish, Rodgers and Edwards “interviewed” Ross earlier than writing a be aware of music. “For 2 days she advised us her life story, as if we had been writing {a magazine} article,” says Rodgers. “After which we went and we wrote the album. Principally, the explanation why it’s simply [called] ‘Diana’ is it’s a documentary.”

The primary single “Upside Down,” which went No. 1, got here immediately out of these conversations: “These had been her phrases really,” says Rodgers. “She mentioned that she simply needed to show her entire profession the wrong way up, and that was in our notes. However we thought that it will be extra highly effective in a romantic setting, so we wrote ‘The other way up, boy you flip me.’ And she or he flipped when she heard it.”

Diana Ross in 1080 holding her single, "Upside Down," from the "Diana" album.
Diana Ross in 1080 holding her single, “Upside Down,” from the “Diana” album.Getty Pictures

“I’m Coming Out,” the second single, was impressed after Rodgers noticed a bunch of “Diana Ross impersonators” within the lavatory at GG’s Barnum Room, a predominantly transgender membership in midtown Manhattan. “Unexpectedly a lightbulb goes off in my head,” he says. “I needed to go outdoors and name Bernard from a phone sales space. I mentioned, ‘Bernard, please write down the phrases: ‘I’m popping out.’ After which I defined the state of affairs to him.”

Ross instantly liked the music, connecting with the empowering lyrics: “The time has come for me to interrupt out of this shell/I’ve to shout that I’m popping out.” “However she didn’t perceive that that was a homosexual factor, that that was an individual saying, ‘I’m popping out of the closet,’ ” says Rodgers. “She didn’t even get that.”

At the very least not till Ross performed the music for influential WBLS DJ Frankie Crocker. “He thought that that might be Diana saying that she was homosexual,” says Rodgers.

However Rodgers satisfied the singer to stay with the music anyway, promoting it as the right live performance opener to make a regal entrance for the remainder of her life. “I mentioned, ‘Diana, this music is gonna be your coming-out music. We consider you as our black queen,’ ” he says. “And I even wrote a [horn] fanfare. I defined to her that it’s identical to when the president comes out they usually play ‘Hail to the Chief.’ ”

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