AT 65, Nile Rodgers is showing no signs of slowing down.

The man behind some of the biggest dance hits of the past few decades has survived cancer twice, cares for his ailing mother and explains why his music appeals to the young.

Currently preparing to headline Wilderness in Oxfordshire on Saturday night, he is still remarkable company, reeling off numerous Miles Davis anecdotes (with a fantastic impersonation) and heaping praise on a number of British artists he’s worked with recently.

But largely it’s a conversation dominated by his latest cancer battle and his ailing mother.

Rodgers was born Nile Gregory Rodgers Jr in September 1952 to Beverley Goodman, who fell pregnant with him when she was just 13. Along with his stepfather, Bobby, she was a heavy heroin user and Rodgers left home at 14.

A year later, he picked up a guitar and his life changed forever. An astounding musician emerged, a pioneer of disco, funk and ultimately dance music.

From helping David Bowie discover his groove in 1982 to unmistakable guitar on top of a tight bass on Daft Punk’s Get Lucky in 2013, Rodgers still has it.

Having beaten cancer in December, he’s more philosophical about life. In 2010, Rodgers was diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer and became vehemently public with his treatment. He started a blog providing almost daily updates, giving birth to an online community. Survivors, sufferers and relatives who had lost loved ones shared stories and messages of support.

He found it beautiful, but also emotionally overwhelming: “The blog helped me to not worry about myself so much but I stopped doing it because people were depending on me more than I wanted them to. Everyone started calling me and saying, ‘Nile, I can’t believe I was just diagnosed with this’. I’m not a cancer expert, I’m not even a Nile expert. I’m a Nile journeyman novice.”

Pausing, he continues: “It was killing me, it made me feel that I didn’t have to walk that journey alone. But then people started to want me to hold their hand through the journey. And that became a little bit painful when people started to pass away, it’s just hard.”

It’s been 25 years since the last Chic album and the aptly named It’s About Time is being launched in September. In fairness, the delay on the album is understandable. Aside from beating cancer and his production duties with a whole array of artists, Rodgers has also been caring for his mother, who has stage five Alzheimer’s.

“I don’t have peaceful days any longer,” he says. “I wake up every morning and see nothing but a shell of that person I knew.

“She can only talk about the most frivolous subjects. This is a woman who was a mega intellectual, it breaks my heart.

“She just wants to be around people. She wants to tell her story over, and over, and over again. But that’s what she seems to cherish more than anything, is just engagement.”

When he finds himself growing anxious at her facility, he often starts playing guitar to calm the nerves.

Appreciative of his gift, Rodgers has managed to sprinkle his gold dust on dozens of artists. From Bowie to Diana Ross to Daft Punk, his eclecticism is ridiculous.

He’s always worked regularly in Britain but more so in recent years with the likes of Laura Mvula, NAO, Mura Masa and Sigala.

So does he surround himself with younger creatives to keep his funk-infused finger firmly on the pulse?

“It’s no more important to work with them than it is to work with older artists,” he says. “When I was younger, I didn’t think the world was going to implode, I didn’t think my mum was going to die. I didn’t think I’d have cancer twice. I just thought about expressing myself through music.

“And I appreciated others who did the same, and maybe that’s why the music I’m making on the most part sells to youth because the problems of the world don’t distract them as much. Or they typically don’t spend as much time thinking about it, that’s the wonderment, and the great part of being young.

“You can be young and idealistic and when you’re doing something, even if that thing may not move the needle, inside it makes you feel like a million dollars.”

  • Nile Rodgers + Chic appears at Wilderness on Saturday night.
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