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Disco: Electronic Music Special Topic

The History of Disco

Disco Defined

Disco was a beat-driven style of popular music that was the preeminent form of dance music in the 1970s. Its name was derived from discotheque, the name for the type of dance-oriented nightclub that first appeared in the 1960s. Initially ignored by radio, disco received its first significant exposure in deejay-based underground clubs that catered to black, gay, and Latino dancers. Deejays were a major creative force for disco, helping to establish hit songs and encouraging a focus on singles: a new subindustry of 12-inch, 45-rpm extended-play singles evolved to meet the specific needs of club deejays. The first disco qua disco hit was Gloria Gaynor’s “Never Can Say Goodbye” (1974), one of the first records mixed specifically for club play. While most of disco’s musical sources and performers were African American, the genre’s popularity transcended ethnic lines, including both interracial groups (e.g., KC and the Sunshine Band) and genre-blending ensembles (e.g., the Salsoul Orchestra).

As disco evolved into its own genre in the United States, its range of influences included upbeat tracks from Motown, the choppy syncopation of funk, the sweet melodies and polite rhythmic pulse of Philadelphia soft soul, and even the most compelling polyrhythms of nascent Latin American salsa. Its lyrics generally promoted party culture. As the dance-floor mania developed into a more upscale trend, the cruder sensuality of funk was eclipsed by the more polished Philadelphia sound and the controlled energy of what came to be known as Eurodisco. Continue reading from Encyclopedia Britannica

Disco Demolition Night: Racist And Homophobic Or Just Rock Fans Having Fun?

Forty years ago, on July 12, 1979, what was supposed to be a wacky promotional stunt by shock-rock DJ Steve Dahl to sell tickets to a double-header White Sox baseball game at Chicago’s Comiskey Park turned ugly — when piles of vinyl records, many by artists of color, were destroyed as thousands of anti-disco rioters, 39 of whom were eventually arrested for disorderly conduct, stormed the field. Dahl has always vehemently denied that 98.7FM WLUP’s infamous “Disco Demolition Night” had any racist or homophobic undertones or intentions, arguing that “annexing this event to today’s advocacy is lazy academically and inappropriate geographically” and that what happened should be “viewed in the 1979 lens.”

But many people claim that Dahl was, at the very least, naïve and irresponsible to stage what Chic’s Nile Rodgers once likened to a “Nazi book-burning” in the tense, segregated climate of ‘70s Chicago. Chicago house music pioneer Vince Lawrence, who was only 15 years old in 1979 and was at Comiskey Park that crazy day working as an usher to buy his first synthesizer, is one of those people. Continue reading from Yahoo Music

The Birth of House Music

House music became the first direct descendant of disco in the early 80s. It's said “house was born from the ashes of Disco” after the launch of an anti-disco movement. The popularity of disco declined substantially after “Disco Demolition Night.” The event also triggered a nationwide sentiment against disco. Many still believe the anti-disco movement expressed racism and homophobia. As a result, record sales fell, and the number of disco songs on the Billboard Top 10 went from six to zero in over eight weeks. US record labels had to look elsewhere, and DJs were forced to explore new mixing approaches to create dance music. Early DJ innovators such as Frankie Knuckles, Larry Levan, DJ Ron Hardy, and others played a pivotal role in evolving disco into early house music. These revered DJs forever shaped the modern dance scene. Continue reading from ICON Collective

Watch Disco History

Donna Summers "I Feel Love"


K.C. and the Sunshine Band "Shake Your Booty"


Earth, Wind & Fire "Boogie Wonderland"