Disco Music

Origin, history and background information

In general

Disco is a genre of dance-oriented pop music. Disco songs usually have soaring, often reverberated vocals over a steady four-on-the-floor beat, an eighth note (quaver) or sixteenth note (semi-quaver) hi-hat pattern with an open hi-hat on the off-beat, and a prominent, syncopated electric bass line. Strings, horns, electric pianos, and electric guitars create a lush background sound. Orchestral instruments such as the flute are often used for solo melodies, and unlike in rock, lead guitar is rarely used.

Well-known mid-1970s disco performers included Evelyn "Champagne" King, Tavares, Chic, Bee Gees, Donna Summer, Grace Jones, Gloria Gaynor, Diana Ross, the Village People, Sylvester, the Jackson 5 and Barry White. While performers and singers garnered the lion's share of public attention, the behind-the-scenes producers played an equal, if not more important role in disco, since they often wrote the songs and created the innovative sounds and production techniques that were part of the "disco sound". Many non-disco artists recorded disco songs at the height of disco's popularity, and films such as Saturday Night Fever and Thank God It's Friday contributed to disco's rise in mainstream popularity and ironically the beginning of it's commercial decline. While disco music declined in popularity in the early to mid 1980s, it was an important influence on the development of Hip hop music and Disco's direct descents -- 1980s and 1990s electric dance music genres of House Music and its harder driving offshoot Techno as well as 80's British New Wave and hip hop subgenres of crunk, snap, and hyphy.


History

1975-1979: Mainstream Popularity

The release of the film and soundtrack of Saturday Night Fever, which became the number one best-selling soundtrack of all time, turned Disco into a mainstream music genre. This in turn led many non-Disco artists to record disco songs at the height of its popularity, most often due to demand from record companies who needed a surefire hit. Many of these songs were not "pure" disco, but were instead rock or pop songs with disco overtones. Notable examples include Marvin Gaye’s "Got to Give It Up" (1977); Barry Manilow’s "Copacabana (At The Copa)" (1978), Michael Jackson’s "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough”.


Early 1980s Hip-Hop and Dance Music

The disco sound had a gigantic influence on early 1980s hip-hop and rap. Most of the early rap/hip-hop songs were created by isolating existing Disco base guitar lines and dubbing over them with MC rimes. In 1982, Afrika Bambataa released the single "Planet Rock," which incorporated electronica elements from Kraftwerk's "Trans-Europe Express" and "Numbers." The "Planet Rock" sound also spawned a hip-hop electronic dance trend, which included such songs as Planet Patrol's "Play At Your Own Risk" (1982), C Bank’s "One More Shot" (1982), Shannon's "Let the Music Play" (1983), Freeez's "I.O.U." (1983), Midnight Star's "Freak-A-Zoid" (1983), and Chaka Khan's "I Feel For You" (1984).

1990s and 2000s "Disco Revival"

In the 1990s, a revival of the original disco style began to emerge. The disco influence can be heard in songs as Gloria Estefan's "Get On Your Feet" (1991), Whitney Houston's "I'm Every Woman" (1993), U2’s "Lemon" (1993), Diana Ross's "Take Me Higher" (1995), The Spice Girls’ "Who Do You Think You Are" (1997), Gloria Estefan's "Heaven's What I Feel" (1998), Cher’s "Strong Enough" (1998), and Jamiroquai's "Canned Heat" (1999).

The trend continued in the 2000s with hit songs such as Kylie Minogue’s "Spinning Around" (2000) and "Love at First Sight" (2002), Janet Jackson's "R&B Junkie" (2004), La Toya Jackson's "Just Wanna Dance" (2004), and Madonna’s 2005 album Confessions on a Dance Floor echoes traditional disco themes, particularly in the single "Hung Up," which samples ABBA's "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)."

In the mid-late 2000s, many disco-influenced songs have been released, becoming hits, including Ultra Nate's "Love's The Only Drug" (2006), Gina G’s "Tonight's The Night" (2006), Irene Cara's "Forever My Love" (2006), Bananarama's "Look on the Floor (Hypnotic Tango)", Dannii Minogue's "Perfection" (2006), Claudja Barry's "I Will Stand" (2006), Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s "Me and My Imagination" (2007) and Maroon 5's "Makes Me Wonder" (2007).