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Nile Rodgers becomes music day ambassador

nile rodgers with his mum Beverley
nile rodgers with his mum Beverley Image credit: bbc.co.uk

Legendary performer and producer Nile Rodgers has announced he will supporting BBC Music Day by raising awareness about dementia after his mother was affected with the illness.

Beverley Rodgers has been living with Alzheimer's for 13 years, now aged 81 she has been the inspiration behind her son’s new project after Nile noticed something quite magical when they went on a shopping trip on her birthday.

The singer told the BBC: "Every time we passed any kind of shop that was playing music, she would start to sing.

"Anything that was old, she knew perfectly. So a Frank Sinatra song would come on, or Diana Ross or Barbra Streisand. My mom just nailed it. It was incredible.

"We stopped in front of one store and she was singing so great that people thought she was busking or something."

Rodgers added: "I've never really heard my mother sing aloud in my life until she developed Alzheimer's.

"She's developed perfect pitch, which is incredible. When my mom and I go walking down the street, she's all of a sudden got a real singer's voice, and she's hitting the notes perfectly."

The Chic star has signed up to become this year’s ambassador for BBC Music Day on September 26 which will see special programmes and events taking place for the annual event.

He believes songs become “internalised” in people’s brains which can trigger off memories, something Nile noticed when his mother attended one of his recent gigs.

"I looked over at her, and she sang every single song," Nile said. "But if we improvised or added a new section to a piece of music and she didn't know it, she would go into a very blank Alzheimer's look on her face.

"It was really amazing for me to watch because it was almost like going in and out of consciousness. Even though she was still standing, her brain almost just shut down until the familiar part came back, and then she would just come right back and sing."

The Chic frontman is unaware if the illness runs in the family. "But I told them [the doctors] that they can absolutely have my brain and see if there's something going on in there because I don't understand."

Nile, 66, is now the same age when his mother was diagnosed with the condition.

Beverley almost put her son up for adoption, but after changing her mind she fought the system to take him back.

Their relationship now is extremely tight, as Nile explains: "It's really strange because we, right now, seemingly have the best relationship we've ever had in our lives.

"The way her Alzheimer's has affected her now is that she's not deteriorating - or at least the parts that make her very pleasant are not deteriorating rapidly at all. So she's the life of the party."

Read our full review of Nile Rodgers and Chic headlining Camp Bestival.