Many fans of EDM consider the era of disco to be the first steppingstone into the evolution of the genre they love today. Indeed, club goers of the 1970s jumped to the beat of their dance music with as much passion and enjoyment as we do with ours. Half a century later, the story of how disco took over the American nightlife scene is still one to marvel at, and perhaps, relate to.
Disco began as a mixture of music from venues in the Hispanic, African American, and LGBT communities of Philadelphia and New York City during the latter half of the 1960s. The first half of the 1960s was dominated by rock music, and it is believed that disco is a counterculture reaction to the less dance-centric genre of rock.
In retrospect, the most accentuated features of the disco era are its musicians, fashion, and dances.
The Musicians of Disco
Hailed the “Queen of Disco,” Donna Summer is one of the most recognizable figures to emerge from the decade of disco. Though her music gained a significant global following, her presence in the American urban club scene is unparalleled. 42 of her singles managed to become hits that earned their place on the US Billboard Hot 100, but she is best known for “No More Tears” and “Hot Stuff.”
The versatile “King of Pop” is a legend in the history of music, even imprinting his influence into disco music. In fact, Michael Jackson’s solo career rose to stardom during the peak of the disco era. Though he would move on to become best remembered for his pop hits, his disco album Off the Wall was a favorite amongst club goers of the late 70s and early 80s.
Gloria Gaynor started off her music career as a singer with the Soul Satisfiers, a jazz band in the 1960s. But she is best known for the hits she made during the disco era: “I Will Survive,” “Never Can Say Goodbye,” “Let Me Know,” and “I Am What I Am.”
The Fashion of Disco
When we think of Disco now, many of us envision big afros, tinted sunglasses, and shirts buttoned a bit too low. There’s more that went into it; club goers dressed to impress, which at the time meant extravagant and sensual clothing.
Most popular for disco women were a shimmery dress or bell-bottoms with a small top. The key was to accessorize! Sporting flashy jewelry was often the key to the perfect disco outfit.
As for men, flared pants and patterned shirts were the rave. Their shoes were often platformed, and a common accessory was a colorful scarf.
The Dances of Disco
The way disco goers danced is a vary stark comparison to the way we dance to our favorite music now. The “Bump” and the “Hustle” were two dance styles developed during the disco era. The “Bump” was when two dance partners bumped their hips to the beat of the music, while the “Hustle” was an umbrella term for a handful of disco dances, many of which resembled the salsa and swing dance.