Heart Presents: The History of Disco
16 January 2013, 10:23 | Updated: 12 July 2018, 13:59
Join us on a trip down memory lane as we celebrate the history of Disco.
Initially popular amongst a new generation of urban youth, Disco would go on to become one of the most influential musical movements of the 20th century.
'It was a beautiful art form. It made the consumer beautiful. The consumer was the star.'
- Barry White on Disco.
The Disco sound began to form in 1974, when The Hues Corporation's 'Rock the Boat' became the first Disco #1 in the US, selling one million copies. Hits like George McCrae's 'Rock Your Baby' and Barry White's 'You're the First, the Last, My Everything' the same year continued to shape the Disco sound. Characterised by irresistible grooves and lush production that were years ahead of their time, Disco was filling America's dance floors!
The Jacksons were one of the first Motown artists to update their sound. They released some of the finest records of the era, from 'Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)', 'Blame it on the Boogie', and 'Can You Feel It'. Michael Jackson went on to record several Disco hits of his own, from 'Off The Wall' and 'Rock With You' to his anthemic hit 'Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough'. Motown star Diana Ross followed suit with 'Love Hangover' and, later, 'Upside Down' and 'I'm Coming Out'.
The late Donna Summer was anointed as The Queen of Disco after joining forces with Italian producer Giorgio Moroder. Emerging in 1975 with the huge hit 'Love to Love You Baby', Donna's inimitable swagger and classic songs had millions dancing beneath Disco balls worldwide. Tracks such as 'I Feel Love', 'Bad Girls' and 'Hot Stuff' consistently hit #1. Her influence pervades pop music to this very day.
In December 1977 the film 'Saturday Night Fever' was released. It popularised Disco music on a worldwide level and made a superstar of its lead actor, John Travolta. With his brothers in the Bee Gees, Robin Gibb contributed classic songs such as 'More Than A Woman', 'Staying Alive', 'You Should Be Dancing' and 'Night Fever' to the soundtrack, which became one of the best selling records of all time. Robin, Maurice and Barry Gibb had cemented their place in musical history.
'Disco is music for dancing, and people will always want to dance.'
- Giorgio Moroder, Donna Summer's producer.
Bands like CHIC and Sister Sledge were ruling the airwaves with hits like 'Everybody Dance', 'Good Times', 'He's The Greatest Dancer', and 'Lost In Music'.
Disco also changed the way people danced and dressed. The dance floor became integral to the music for the first time, with regular dance competitions taking place. Popular dance routines included the 'Bump', the 'Penguin', the 'Boogaloo' and the 'Robo'.
Fashion wise, women would opt for sheer maxi dresses or hot pants, while men favoured shiny Qiana shirts with oversized pointy collars. Flared trousers, platform shoes and medallions were all the rage!
Legendary New York club Studio 54 was arguably the most famous nightclub ever by 1977. On a good night Studio 54 was the best party of your life,' Anthony Haden-Guest reportedly revealed. With multi-media displays and DJs 'mixing' their music so the hits could go on all night long, clubs like Studio 54 completely revolutionised club culture and defined night life.
By the late 1970s, Disco was everywhere, and there were more artists releasing crossover tracks. Rock bands began releasing Disco songs. Blondie had hits with 'Atomic' and 'Heart of Glass', Rod Stewart release 'Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?' and David Bowie released 'Let's Dance'.
In 1980, Gloria Gaynor was awarded the first and last ever Grammy Award for Best Disco Recording for her classic hit 'I Will Survive'. As the 1980s picked up, Disco evolved into electro pop, as heard in hits such as Chaka Khan's 'Ain't Nobody' and Michael Jackson's 'Billie Jean'.
Donna Summer sadly passed away on May 17th 2012, followed by Robin Gibb three days later. Their legacy lives on through the classic music they and their contemporaries gave the world.