"I'm Coming Out" is a hit single released by Motown singer Diana Ross in 1980, written and produced by Chic members Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers for her album diana (1980).
In 1979, Ross commissioned Chic founders Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards to create material for a new album, following the success of her final Ashford & Simpson-composed and produced LP, The Boss after taking her daughters to see the band in concert. Rodgers got the idea for "I'm Coming Out" after noticing three different drag queens dressed as Diana Ross at a New York club called the GG Barnum Room. The lyrics hold an additional meaning to Ross, as she was leaving Motown Records and "coming out" from under the thumb of Berry Gordy.
Rodgers convinced his neighbor, producer Meco Monardo, to contract the horns for the album in return for a commitment by Rodgers to co-produce Monardo's then-upcoming album of music fromThe Empire Strikes Back. Monardo, a former first-call session player who had a string of hits in the late 1970s with disco versions of film music, also played trombone on the album and is featured in a solo towards the end of "I'm Coming Out":
Nile recorded all the tracks and vocals and called me and my horn section for a 3-hour date. We had a great time, as the songs were fabulous—especially "Upside Down" and "I'm Coming Out". We sounded great—Nile was pleased and as I was packing up, he asked me to stay and play a jazz trombone solo on one of the tracks. I said, "Nile, there are a lot of hit records with jazz saxophone solos—even some with jazz trumpet solos, but not one with a trombone"!! He said. "That's exactly why I want you to do it"!! I was a little bit rusty at first as I hadn't had a call to play jazz in years, so we ended up with four separate tracks of solos, with the intention of picking the best parts to make one great solo when later he went to mix it. I reminded Nile of our agreement and he said he was looking forward to 'The Empire Strikes Back' as he was a Star Wars fan himself.
Trombone solos have been rare on top forty songs in the post-big band era and especially so since the 1960s. Notable exceptions include brief solos by James Pankow on a handful of earlyChicago hits and Clifford Adams' brief solo on Kool & the Gang's 1983 hit "Joanna". The pitch in Monardo's solo is unusually indistinct for an instrumentalist of his stature, which he later explained was due to problems in the final mixing of the track:
Weeks went by when I heard through the grapevine that Diana Ross was incredibly unhappy with the album. She thought Nile and Bernard made her sound like Chic. She took the master tapes from Power Station and went to Motown in Detroit to remix the record. When it came out, her early interviews were very unenthusiastic about it and Nile and Bernard, her producers. Well, as we all know, this turned out to be her biggest-selling solo album ever. "Upside Down" was a monster Number-One single and "I'm Coming Out" was a top-ten single. It turned out that when the engineer at Motown saw the track listings of Meco 1-2-3-4, he just assumed that Track 1 was THE track and never listened to the others, and so that's what is on the record. So, I'm extremely proud to say that my solo is the only jazz trombone solo of a top-ten pop hit in the last 50 years! But - it wasn't my best - that, unfortunately lies in the vaults at Motown.
The dispute with Ross led to none of musicians being credited on the album cover and also may have had a part in Rodgers backing out of his commitment to Monardo's Meco Plays Music from The Empire Strikes Back album. However, Rodgers and Ross later mended their professional relationship and subsequent digital releases of the album credit Monardo and the other musicians. A 2003 two-disk release of the album included as a bonus track the Rodgers/Edwards mix originally rejected by Ross.