Friday, June 15, 2012

1970s Disco Legends, Pop Icons Revisited

By Joett (Published in Business Times 15th May 2012) -- Twelve years into the new millennium, who would’ve ever imagined that disco, a genre of dance music from the 1970s, that spawned electronic pop into the 1980s would still be popular to this day, with boogie events and radio shows dedicated to fashion and music of that era—not to mention reissued and re-mastered tracks by yesteryear artists back in record stores yet again and making a comeback on the charts. Disco acts charted high during the mid-1970s, and the genre's popularity peaked during the late 1970s. Its initial audiences were club-goers from the African American, Latino, and psychedelic communities in New York City and Philadelphia during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Disco also was a reaction against both the domination of rock music and the stigmatization of dance music by the counterculture during this period. Women embraced disco as well, and the music eventually expanded to several other popular groups of the time.

The 1980s saw the reinvention of Michael Jackson and the emergence of Madonna, who arguably were the most powerful musicians during the time. Their videos became a permanent fixture on MTV and gained a worldwide mass audience. Michael Jackson's Thriller album from 1982 is the best-selling album of all time, it is cited as selling as many as 110 million copies worldwide. Being the biggest selling artist of that decade he was indisputably the biggest star of the 1980s. Recently, on retro radio show Boogie on Times 100.5 FM, I featured Michael Jackson albums Off the Wall from 1979 and Bad from 1987, where listeners were invited to select via SMS the songs they wanted me to play.

In what is considered a forerunner to disco style clubs, New York City DJ David Mancuso opened The Loft, a members-only private dance club set in his own home, in February 1970. Allmusic claims some have argued that Isaac Hayes and Barry White were playing what would be called disco music as early as 1971. According to the music guide, there is disagreement as to what the first disco song was. Claims have been made for Manu Dibango's "Soul Makossa" (1972), Jerry Butler's "One Night Affair" (1972), the Hues Corporation's "Rock the Boat" (1973), George McCrae's "Rock Your Baby" (1974), and "Kung Fu Fighting" (1974) by Biddu and Carl Douglas. The first article about disco was written in September 1973 by Vince Aletti for Rolling Stone magazine. In 1974 New York City's WPIX-FM premiered the first disco radio show. What a journey for disco, I’d say, considering this is 2012 and I am hosting a disco radio show myself! If I’m honest, I can’t see an end to the love for disco. It lives on and is evolving at an incredible pace. UK-based lifestyle brand Hed Kandi have gone the extra mile to ensure its popularity into the future—they’re the pioneers of Nu Disco, a genre that springs from late 70s early 80s disco. And they’re doing it in a pretty grand and elaborate scale with Hed Kandi events taking place in cities across the globe—and with commercially successful Nu Disco tracks and compilation albums recorded between the years 2000 and 2012 hitting the record stores to boot. I’m so excited about Nu Disco that I’ve added that to my playlist on 70s disco 80s pop retro radio show Boogie on Times 100.5 FM, a two-hour show that airs Sundays from 6pm.

Well-known late 1970s disco performers I regularly feature on Boogie included Donna Summer, The Bee Gees, KC and the Sunshine Band, The Trammps, Van McCoy, Gloria Gaynor, The Village People, Chic, and The Jacksons to name but a few—the latter of which first dipped its toes into disco as The Jackson 5. Summer would become the first well-known and most popular disco artist—eventually having the title "The Queen of Disco" bestowed upon her by various critics—and would also play a part in pioneering the electronic sound that later became a prominent element of disco. While performers and singers garnered the lion's share of public attention, producers working behind the scenes 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. According to music writer Piero Scaruffi the disco phenomenon spread quickly because the "collective ecstasy" of disco was cathartic and regenerative and led to freedom of expression. Disco was the last mass popular music movement that was driven by the baby boom generation.

Disco music was a worldwide phenomenon, but its popularity declined in the United States in the late 1970s. On July 12, 1979, an anti-disco protest in Chicago called "Disco Demolition Night" had shown that an angry backlash against disco and its culture had emerged in the United States. On this particular night, they publicly blew up tons of disco records. In the subsequent months and years, many musical acts associated with disco struggled to get airplay on the radio. A few artists still managed to score disco-style hits in the early 1980s, but the term "disco" became unfashionable in the new decade and was eventually replaced by "dance music", "dance pop", and other identifiers. Although the production techniques have changed, many successful acts since the 1970s have retained the basic disco beat and mentality, and dance clubs have remained popular.
The 1980s are commonly associated with the usage of synthesizers, thus, synthpop music and other electronic genres featuring non-traditional instruments exploded in popularity. Also during this decade, several major electronic genres were developed, including electro, techno, house, freestyle and Eurodance, rising in prominence during the 1990s and beyond. Throughout the decade, R&B, hip hop and urban music in general were becoming commonplace, particularly in the inner-city areas of large, metropolitan cities; rap was especially successful in the latter part of the decade, with the advent of the golden age of hip hop. These urban genres, rap and hip hop particularly, would continue their rise in popularity through the 1990s and 2000s.

What is reassuring about the resurgence in the popularity of disco is that the demand has compelled record labels to reissue back catalogs of popular artists of that era. And with the advancement in technology, we’re getting digitally re-mastered products. Browsing a UK record store I see reissued yesteryear LP (vinyl) records on sale once again—the quality of which to this day surpasses compact discs, so much so that a growing number of radio stations in the USA are currently going back to vinyl.

To listen to superb, digitally re-mastered disco imports, tune in to Boogie on Times 100.5 FM, or listen live on stream at from 6pm Sundays. Presented by reinvented 80s pop singer Joett with DJ Cue and sponsored by Business Times, Majira and SPOTIstarehe, Boogie is fast becoming a great way to spend Sunday evenings chilling out with friends to remember the good ole days. For regular blog updates, playlists and to link on to Boogie TZ on Facebook, visit

Be sure to tune in to Times 100.5 FM from 6pm Sunday East Africa Time, Or Listen live on stream at For International listeners, view World Time Zone Map for current time in your area.

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Radio Presenter, Recording Artist & Vocal Coach

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