And to think, it would have all been different if that bouncer at Studio 54 hadn't said no.
On Dec. 9, 1978, disco group Chic vaulted into the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 with their addictive dance-floor filler "Le Freak." One of the group's signature songs, the song transcended its pop chart status to become one of the best-selling singles for Atlantic Records and a cultural touchstone of American music.
Chic's co-founders, guitarist Nile Rodgers and bassist Bernard Edwards, were already purveyors of a unique blend of rock, funk and soul that sounded nothing like anything in dance clubs at the time. Rodgers' distinctive chunky guitar chords, Edwards' thick bass, Tony Thompson's precision drums, and a host of powerful session vocalists like Norma Jean Wright, Alfa Anderson and Luther Vandross kept audiences moving to Chic's early singles, like "Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)" and "Everybody Dance."
Read More: November 1977: Chic Debut with 'Chic'
But Chic was built around a collective mentality - and when Rodgers and Edwards showed up to Studio 54 on a snowy New Year's Eve in 1977 at the request of singer Grace Jones, nobody knew who they were, even as partygoers got down to songs they'd performed. After trudging back through the freezing Manhattan weather, the duo warmed their spirits with a few bottles of Dom Perrignon and a jam session.
"I picked up my guitar, started jamming on a guitar riff and singing the words that the stage doorman had said to us earlier, 'Fuck off,'" Rodgers wrote in his memoir, appropriately titled Le Freak, "and Nard added, 'Fuck Studio 54 - aw, fuck off.'" Through their feelings, they soon realized they had a pretty catchy groove, and tried to come up with an alternate lyric that might be suitable for radio consumption.
"Suddenly," Nile wrote, "the proverbial lightbulb went of. 'Hey, man, we should say, "Awww, freak out"...Like...when you're out on the dance floor losing it, you know you're freaking out.'" The recent popularity of a dance called The Freak added to the duo's singature goal of attaining a "DHM" (Deep Hidden Meaning) in their songcraft.
Read More: August 1978: Chic Releases 'C'est Chic'
Released in the late summer of '78, "Le Freak" and its parent album C'est Chic were runaway successes, setting the Chic Organization up for a decade of successes as artists and producers. "Le Freak" was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America at the end of 1978 and was added to the Library of Congress' National Recording Registry 40 years later.