Disco (music)

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Example from Kevin MacLeod
"Disco-Queen" Donna Summer in a recording studio in 1977

Disco is a style of pop music related to funk music , which became an independent music genre around 1974 . Texts, melody and vocals take a back seat to disco music; Danceability, groove , a beat of around 100 to 120 beats per minute ( bpm ) and the mix are in the foreground.

The heyday of disco music took place between 1976 and 1979. It was formative for the fashion , the zeitgeist and the lifestyle of these years. The disco styles that have emerged since 1980 are counted as electronic dance music .


The word disco is the acronym for discotheque , which appeared in French for the first time in everyday language as Discothèque around 1941 . The word is a determinative compound from the Greek discos ("disc") and thέkέ ("container") and originally referred to a container in which plates are kept.

History of origin

From soul to underground disco

Discos became popular in the 1960s, first in Western Europe and a few years later in the United States. Here young people heard current danceable and catchy music. During the swinging sixties , new trends in music, fashion and dance also prevailed. The twist , for which a separate dance style was developed, was particularly popular at first , later soul and funk music was often used .

When, in 1969, after the stonewall riots of gays and lesbians in New York, the ban on dancing for same-sex couples was lifted and a new self-confidence developed in the gay and lesbian scene, gay clubs and bars sprang up in the city in which the Disco culture began in the 1970s. Extensive parties were celebrated here with a lot, more or less public sex. The music was a mixture of danceable current hard rock, funk in the style of James Brown , the soft, opulently arranged soul sub-style called Phillysound and Latin American music. From these beginnings, a separate style of music developed around 1974, which was called disco .

The DJ and organizer David Mancuso , who hosted the legendary loft parties in his private apartment, set the tone. Not only were records played non-stop in a row for the first time, but Mancuso designed the room with balloons and other elements and paid attention to the quality of the sound and the specialty of the atmosphere. The loft's audience was not only predominantly homosexual, but a mix of all of the city's ethnic groups. In the further course of the development of disco culture, these cornerstones were initially only expanded in the New York underground. Around 1974/75 disco became popular outside of the subcultural underground and New York or especially Manhattan .

Billboard , the most important trade and industry journal for music and entertainment in the USA, began making disco hit lists on October 26, 1974. The first was compiled by Tom Moulton , one of the most successful and influential disco producers and remixers, and measured song popularity in New York City. It initially had the title Disco Action and the following songs took the first ten places:

placement Artist song
01. Gloria Gaynor Never Can Say Goodbye
02. Ecstasy, Passion & Pain Ask me
03. Disco-Tex and His Sex-O-Lettes Get dancin '
04. Barry White You're the First, the Last, My Everything
05. The modulations I Can't Fight Our Love
06. Jimmy Ruffin Tell me what you want
07. The Tymes You Little Trustmaker
08. BT Express Do It ('Til You're Satisfied)
09 The Blackbyrds Good level
10. Carl Carlton Everlasting Love

The hit list remained regional until 1976 and various cities were featured until, in the week of August 28, 1976, the National Disco Action mapped the hits nationwide.

Into the mainstream

Disco pioneer Giorgio Moroder

The connection with choruses suitable for the masses gradually made the disco sound interesting for mainstream radio as well, and it lost its subcultural character. The first disco hits made it into the charts between 1974 and 1975 : Rock the Boat by The Hues Corporation (1974), Rock Your Baby by George McCrae (1974 the best-selling single in Germany), Kung Fu Fighting by Carl Douglas ( 1974) or Shame, Shame, Shame by Shirley & Company (1975).

When the record companies saw the commercial potential, they began to produce records specifically for discos. In order to entertain the dancers longer, maxi singles (12 ") and special remixes were developed by DJs . In general, the disc jockey played a prominent role in the development of disco music for the first time in the history of pop music. His mixes and Choosing the order in which he put the records determined whether the dancers had fun and stayed on the dance floor.As part of the show, he often prompted collective gestures of enthusiasm such as screaming or raising hands etc.

In Europe, too, the commercially successful US trend, the so-called Euro Disco , was soon followed up . In Germany in 1976, among other things, Boney M.'s road to success began with Daddy Cool . The Munich-Sound of Giorgio Moroder - characterized by the dominance of strings constantly repetitive choruses - brought hits like Love to Love You Baby and I Feel Love by Donna Summer or Fly, Robin, Fly of the German girl trio Silver Convention out.

The German logo for the movie hit Saturday Night Fever

The popularity of disco music in North America and Western Europe culminated in the film Saturday Night Fever (1977). The plot of the film roughly corresponded to the lifestyle of the disco generation: to break out of the dreary everyday life and to be a star for one night. While disco ruled the pop music scene for a year or two, there were soon expressions of displeasure such as “Disco sucks” (“Disco sucks”), and disco music was also declared dead by some.

Only a few artists managed to build a long career beyond the genre as the star of the disco wave : Donna Summer became a world star just like Barry White . The Bee Gees made a very successful comeback with the disco sound and were also instrumental in the success of the Saturday Night Fever album. However, the Bee Gees could produce themselves, a fact that was particularly important in the disco era. Seldom before have producers had better chances of becoming stars themselves: Moroder, who produced stars such as Donna Summer, The Three Degrees and Blondie, and Frank Farian , who was responsible for Boney M., were among the most influential personalities of the disco era in the 70s.

Influences on pop and rock musicians of the 1970s

Countless pop and rock stars such as The Rolling Stones , Rod Stewart , Queen , Electric Light Orchestra and Cher gave their songs a disco-like note. The disco beat expanded into almost all genres at an inflationary rate, even country artists like Dolly Parton or hard rock groups like Kiss took over and were able to celebrate more or less great successes with it. Even ABBA were special in their 1979 released album Voulez-Vous with unmistakable sit up disco overtones. Liza Minnelli's disco album Tropical Nights , for example, went largely unnoticed .

Conversely, numerous disco bands covered rock and pop classics, such as Neil Young's Heart of Gold (Boney M.), or even Beethoven's 5th Symphony ( A Fifth of Beethoven by Walter Murphy ).

Influence on new styles since the 1970s

The disco wave continued to influence music in the 1980s, including in house and Hi-NRG with increased electronic instrumentation and the use of samples . While Euro Disco and Italo Disco developed in Europe in the 80s, coming more from synth-pop than from the soul and funk of the 70s, R&B became popular again , especially in the USA . A part of dance music developed from these styles . House in particular has a closer musical relationship with the actual disco music from the 70s.

Style and instrumentation

Producer and Chic founder Nile Rodgers in his Le Crib Studios, 1999

Typical instruments of disco music are the rhythmic guitar , the bass guitar , the piano and keyboards . The unmistakable disco sound also includes strings such as the violin , cello or harp , wind instruments such as trumpet , saxophone , clarinet or flute and the drums . The electronic models emerging at the time, the so-called e-drums, were particularly popular . Typical for many disco numbers is the 4/4 time, 1/16 beats on the hi-hat , the continuous bass drum (four-on-the-floor) and the often rhythmically complex, often syncopated , i.e. against the beat running, bass lines.

The 1/16 feel is often supported by other instruments such as the rhythmic guitar, with lead guitars being rare. Keyboards and other instruments mainly take on harmonic functions and take a back seat in the mix. In the late phase of disco music, the guitar was partially replaced by synthesizers .

The percussion also plays an important role. Hand drums ( congas ) are particularly popular and can usually be heard in the background during the entire piece. Characteristic of some disco pieces is the interplay of the continuous beat of the drums with the percussion instruments in intermediate parts, the so-called "breaks", which often make up a large part of a piece. In these "breaks" most of the instruments stop and only drums and percussion can be heard. Little by little or all of a sudden, all instruments start playing again.

The stylistic orchestral style of disco music arises primarily from the frequent use of string and brass lines played in unison in connection with rising and reverberant chants or through long instrumental interludes that create a " wall of sound ". In the late 1970s, when the disco sound became independent and produced numerous one-hit wonders , a more minimalist disco sound with more transparent and more economical instrumentation emerged. One of the pioneers of this is the Chic group .

Representative of classical disco music (1970s to early 1980s)

Artists, groups and projects

Coming from (Philly) soul and funk

Coming from jazz

Developed from pop or rock music

Artist Songs Albums
ABBA Dancing Queen (1976), Voulez-vous (1979), Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (1979), Lay All Your Love on Me (1980)
Andy Gibb Shadow Dancing (1977)
Barry Manilow Copacabana (at the Copa) (1978)
Bee Gees You should be dancing (1976), Stayin 'Alive , Night Fever (1977), Tragedy (1979) Studio albums between 1975 and 1979 and the soundtrack for Saturday Night Only (1977)
Bette Midler Married Men (1979) Thighs And Whispers (1979)
Blondie Heart of Glass (1979), Call Me (1980), Rapture (1981)
Cher Take Me Home (1979) Take Me Home , Prisoner (1979)
Dalida J'attendrai , Besame Mucho (1976), Monday, Tuesday ... Laissez-moi danser (1979), Gigi in Paradisco (1980)
Dolly Parton Baby I'm Burnin ' (1978)
Dr. Hook When You're in Love with a Beautiful Woman , Better Love Next Time (1979), Sexy Eyes (1980)
Dusty Springfield That's the Kind of Love I've Got for You (1978)
Electric Light Orchestra Shine a Little Love , Last Train to London (1979) Discovery (1979), Xanadu (1980, soundtrack with Olivia Newton-John )
Elton John Victim of Love (1979) Victim of Love (1979)
Ethel Merman The Ethel Merman Disco Album (1979)
Helen Reddy Ready or Not (1978), Make Love to Me (1979)
Herb Alpert Rise (1979) Rise (1979)
Johnny Mathis Gone, Gone, Gone (1979)
Kiss I Was Made for Lovin 'You (1979)
Liza Minnelli Tropical Nights (1977)
Neil Sedaka Love in the Shadows (1976)
Petula Clark Downtown 77 (1977), I'm Not in Love (1978)
Queen Another One Bites the Dust (1980)
Rita Coolidge You (1978)
Rod Stewart Because Ya Think I'm Sexy? (1979)
Santana One Chain (Don't Make No Prison) (1979)
Sarah Brightman I Lost My Heart to a Starship Trooper (1978, with Hot Gossip )
The Four Seasons Who Loves You , December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night) (1975)
The Rolling Stones Miss You (1978)
The Ventures Superstar Revue (1975), Moonlight Serenade (1976) Rocky Road (1976)
Yvonne Elliman If I Can't Have You (1977), Love Pains (1979)

Note on the table: A selection of well-known pop, rock and other entertainment artists who had a hit with the respective songs at the height of disco music and / or recorded entire albums in this style.

Neo disco

Important producers

Barry Gibb, 1973

See also


  • Kitty Hanson: Disco Fever. Heyne, 1979.
  • Andy Blackford: Disco Dancing Tonight. Octopus Books, 1979.
  • Alan Jones & Jussi Kantonen: Saturday Night Forever - The Story Of Disco. Mainstream Publishing, 1999.
  • John-Manuel: A Brief History of Disco. HarperEntertainment, 2001 ISBN 0-380-80907-9 .
  • Peter Shapiro: Turn The Beat Around - The Secret History Of Disco. Faber And Faber, 2005 ISBN 0-86547-952-6 .
  • Larry Harris, Curt Gooch and Jeff Suhs: And Party Every Day - The Inside Story of Casablanca Records. Backbeat Books, 2009, ISBN 978-0-87930-982-4 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ David Crossland: Club Culture: Meet Heinrich, the World's First Disc Jockey. In: Der Spiegel . October 19, 2009, accessed November 24, 2019 .
  2. ^ Billboard, October 26, 1974, p. 22 , accessed November 19, 2017
  3. ^ Joel Whitburn: Hot Dance / Disco 1974-2003, 2004, pages 7 and 8, ISBN 0-89820-156-X
  4. Unlikely Disco Artists AC ( Memento of the original from March 19, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , DiscoMusic.com, accessed March 19, 2014 @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.discomusic.com