Let’s party like its 1975…. Polyester shirts, platform shoes, a shiny mirror ball and Studio 54 are just a few items associated with Disco. Disco is derived from the French word discotheque; it refers not only to a specific music style but to a unique dance club décor, a special manner of dress, a style of dance and a distinctive night life. Disco promoted a whole range of sincere emotions, rebellion and enchantment to the dance floor adding a sense of an alluring pleasure and utopia.
Disco invaded mainstream music during the early 1970s and gained a lot of attention and fan base through the mid to late 1970s and some said it died in the year of 1978/9, but did it really die or did it evolve to some other genre we call dance music?
Some of late 1960s and early 1970s songs paved the way for a full blown Disco domination of the mainstream music scene. One of the early disco records is Soul Makossa (1972) by Manu Dibango, which was used by Michael Jackoson in Gonna Be Startin’ Something (1983) and Rihanna in Don’t Stop the Music (2008). Other earlier records include Jerry Butler’s Only the Strong Survive (1969), The Supremes Love Child (1969).
Disco songs and albums started to climb the charts and hit the #1 spot week after week among the first songs to achieve a massive international appeal is George McCrae’s Rock Your Baby (1974) and the infamous instrumental piece Love’s Theme ( 1974) by Barry White and his Love Unlimited Orchestra. More and more Disco records and bands started forming, thus increasing the appeal of Disco. KC and the Sunshine Band released That’s the Way (I Like It) (1975), Keep It Comin’ Love (1977), LaBelle’s Lady Marmalade (1975), Chic’s Le Freak (1978).
Donna Summer and Gloria Gaynor are two singers associated with the Disco era. Donna Summer conquered music charts with a string of hits including Love to Love You Baby, I Feel Love, Hot Stuff and Bad Girl. She was called the queen of Disco and the first lady of love. Gloria Gaynor achieved international recognition with her single I Will Survive 1979, Never Can Say Goodbye 1974, and Let’s Make A Deal 1976.
European and British bands gained transatlantic fame and helped spread the groovy tunes of Disco to all corners of the world. The Bee Gees; an Australian British band of the trio Gibb brothers who made a sensational breakthrough on the soundtrack of Saturday Night Fever, which became the most biggest selling soundtrack of all time and produced 10 single hits out of 17 songs including How Deep Is Your Love, Stayin’ Alive, and Night Fever. Other European Disco artists include Boney M, Dalida, Madleen Kane and Amanda Lear.
Sweden is internationally recognized for safe cars like Volvo and Saab, for being the birthplace of movie sirens such as Ingrid Bergman and Greta Garbo. Sweden launched the career of the most famous Disco band in the history of music; ABBA, an acronym formed from the first letter of each band member’s name. Representing Sweden during the 1947 Eurovision contest held in Brighton, they sang Waterloo securing the first place. ABBA became an instant success and their post Eurovision career insured they reigned over European and other music charts with hits like Fernando, Dancing Queen, I Have A Dream and Voulez – Vous.
What set Disco apart from other existing forms of music is that it was not just dancing music, it was music about dancing; the beat was the guide to the dancer, and the dance floor was the world where anything might happen. Some Hollywood movies revolved around the disco floor such as Saturday Night Fever and Thank God it’s Friday.
Disco did not die in Europe and flourished through the 1980s. Disco influenced other songs by the Disco sound that can be recognized on post Disco singles like Celebration, I’m So Excited, It’s Raining Men, Flashdance (What A Feeling) and Thriller.
Nothing lasts forever, and the same applies to Disco. Disco saturated the music industry, hundreds of pure Disco stations appeared on the airwaves, an anti-disco movement started to form, rock musicians lost the limelight and wanted it back, rock producers lost a lot of money. The illegal use of drugs, the promiscuous sexual acts in clubs, the notion that dancing to an electric beat is better than enjoying a live performance. All those factors influenced the death of a disco, but also gave way to dance music that is one of the most popular genres of modern music.