DISCO DELITE :: The Evolution of Disco

The Evolution of Disco
The Evolution of Disco
I was talking to my hair stylist today about music and the topic quickly turned to disco. We both agreed that it still had a huge place in our hearts after all these years - or in his words "the kind of music that makes the lights sparkle!" I told him I would make him a mix with some of my favorite old and new disco tracks. I decided to do it here, so I could also explain some of the history and why these tracks mean so much to me. 

To understand disco, you really have to understand that disco was a product of the underground. More importantly, it helped to shine a light on many social issues concerning minorities, including people of color, women and most importantly - the gay community. It challenged the straight white male patriarchy and quickly gained some enemies. 

Disco combined the elements of funk, soul, pop and salsa. With its four on the floor beat, it was the anti-thesis of rock music. It could also be mixed easily creating DJ culture and a vibe that didn't have to be interrupted.

Some say that what we call disco, was original started in NYC, at a regular private party called The Loft - thrown by DJ David Mancuso. One of the songs seminal to those parties was "Soul Makossa" by Manu Dibango, which David found in a West Indian music store. The artist, originally from Cameroon had his track re-released as a US single in 1973 where it reached #35 in the charts.

Disco also reached popularity in Europe. Anita Meyer reached #1 in the Dutch charts in 1981. It's a great example of how strong female "diva" voices came to dominate disco. I love this track. It just screams passion.

Cloud One's "Disco Juice" is another favorite. It premiered in 1976 and like many disco tracks has been remixed into various house tracks.

As disco grew in popularity, it became regionalized. For example, there was the Philadelphia sound. Also remixes of songs from pop to movie soundtracks to classical became popular. Walter Murphy's 1976 remix of Beethoven's Fifth was incredibly popular and well done, I should add.

I want to skip ahead next to 2010 and a song that almost didn't happen - Midnight Magic's - "Beam Me Up". Observe the differences and similarities between disco from the 70's and today's music. Hailing from Brooklyn, Midnite Magic are on James Murphy's DFA Records label. James, of course, got his start from incorporating disco into his sets during his infamous Manhattan parties.

Boston's J Paul Getto is also highly influenced by the disco sound. This can be heard in another of my favorite tracks - "Space Disco" from 2011.

Let's get real now. There are probably no other two people that influenced disco more than the two that collaborated on this next disco gem - "I Feel Love". Donna Summer on vocals and Giorgio Moroder on track. Remember, I said how big disco was getting in Europe. Well, Giorgio might have done more than anyone to move that along. This one reached #6 in 1977, which is really an accomplishment considering it really it such a minimal song.

Moroder continues to work to this day. His contribution to disco and eventually electronic music can not be understated. Daft Punk recently brought him in to work on their latest album - as he was such a big influence to them. It's really amazing how the sounds and layout of Moroder's "The Chase" is to "I Feel Loved".

I don't know a lot about this next track. It's fairly recent and does a great job of combining the old and new elements of disco.

We've now come full circle. Why do I say that? Well because this last track combines a hip hop artist with a Nu-disco track. Disco's popularity eventually waned in the 80's, but not it's influence as hip hop DJ's took the skills that they had learned from disco DJ's to cut between records; as well as even sample disco. Would Sugar Hill's "Rapper's Delight" be as big as it was had it not sampled Chic's "Good Times". It's hard to say.

You can listen to the above tracks together in a Youtube playlist here.

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