Tony Thompson, the driving force behind such groups as Chic and the Power Station, and a drummer whose effortless ability to move from jazz to rock to funk made him a prized session man, has died. He was 48.
Thompson, who underwent cancer surgery earlier this year, died Nov. 12 of renal cell cancer at his home in Los Angeles, his family said.
The drummer was noted not only for keeping perfect time, but also for subtle cymbal syncopation and incredible raw power -- talents that kept him in demand as a session player for such stars as Madonna, David Bowie, Diana Ross, Patti LaBelle and Sister Sledge.
The New York native formed his first group, Big Apple Band, with guitarist Nile Rodgers and bassist Bernard Edwards in the early 1970s. A rock group, Big Apple Band was a flop, but the three stayed together, changed their band's name to Chic and added female singers and strings.
By the late 1970s, Chic was one of the most popular groups of the disco era.
With Thompson keeping a rock-steady beat while many other disco groups resorted to drum machines, Chic sold millions of records, beginning with the hit single "Dance, Dance, Dance" in 1977.
Other hits included the singles "Le Freak" and "Good Times" and the albums "C'est Chic" and "Risque."
After the group disbanded in 1983, Thompson kept busy as a session player, appearing on Sister Sledge's "We Are Family" album in 1979, Bowie's "Let's Dance" in 1983 and Madonna's "Like a Virgin" in 1984.
In 1985, Thompson, Edwards and Robert Palmer formed Power Station with two members of Duran Duran. The group's hits included "Some Like It Hot."
That same year, Thompson also sat in as the drummer when the surviving members of Led Zeppelin reunited for a Live Aid benefit concert.
He is survived by his wife, Patrice Jennings, and two children.