Thursday, September 06, 2007

The 50 Music Project: Everybody Disco!

XX. Everybody Dance Now

It’s not as if dance music was something new. But Disco deserves a chapter of its own in any reasonable accounting of rock history. The genre took the country by storm in the mid-1970s and, fueled by the enormous success of Saturday Night Fever, led to an explosion and reaction that will provide study fodder for sociologists for years to come.

As with any other genre, the product in Disco ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous. On the one hand, you had true innovators like Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards (the latter perhaps the most explosive bassist since the days of James Jamerson at Motown) creating visionary works like “We Are Family” and “Good Times.” On the other hand, you had absolute dreck like “Disco Duck.” And then, you had just about everything imaginable in between.

Get Down Tonight, K.C. and the Sunshine Band

Got To Give It Up (Part I), Marvin Gaye

When you’re a genius like Marvin Gaye, you can adapt to just about any trend. With this song, he conquered disco in spectacular fashion.

Staying Alive, Bee Gees
If I Can’t Have You, Yvonne Elliman
Night Fever, Bee Gees

To say that the Bee Gees dominated the airwaves in late ’77 and early ’78 doesn’t really do their accomplishment justice. Nearly 30 years later, it just seems all the more amazing.

Y.M.C.A., The Village People

There’s probably little doubt that one reason for the vehemence of the backlash against disco was that it gave every racist and/or homophobe in the country a “respectable” outlet for gay- and race-bashing. The Village People, a great joke if you got it, were probably one of the biggest targets. Their songs were little more than fast bubble-gum melodies with a dose of heavy backbeat, but if you took the whole thing as a package, it worked.

I Will Survive, Gloria Gaynor
I Love the Nightlife, Alicia Bridges
Hot Stuff, Donna Summer

I probably shouldn’t admit this today, but there was a time in the seventies that I had a Donna Summer poster up on the wall in my bedroom. Fueled by the production of Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte, Summer began as little more than a “disco diva” (just about anyone could have sung her early hits, and no one would have been able to tell the difference) but turned into one of the most effective female rock vocalists around. This was her finest moment.

Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough, Michael Jackson

A young, confident Michael Jackson, acting as if he was poised to take over the world. And he was; what we didn’t know at the time was that he would lose it so spectacularly.

We Are Family, Sister Sledge
Funkytown, Lipps Inc.
Good Times, Chic

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