Man, the month of January 2021 has been something of an epilogue for the story of 2020. Remember, around Christmas, my dad tested positive for COVID-19 and began to show symptoms. He was then hospitalized for a couple of days, appeared to be medically stable and discharged on New Year’s Day. Then, within 48 hours, everything went south for him. His wife had him rushed to the hospital via ambulance. Thus, he began what has turned into a month-long stay in two different facilities. Finally, he is beginning to get to the point in which I believe the medical team will begin to discuss his release. This is miraculous as he is 85, but his physical conditioning has always defied his age. The man had a pre-coronavirus activity of stretching, push-ups, sit-ups and walking 2.5-3 miles a day. I think this might be his secret for his survival up to this point.
So, it is with a joyful heart in which I tackle this second day of my 150 favorite disco songs. After apologizing my aberrant behavior as a naïve sixteen year-old in 1979 for unwittingly promoting xeno- and homophobia with my “Disco Destroyer” t-shirt, today, I would rather praise the attributes of this unfairly maligned era in rock history.
Thus far, the only “disco” artists to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame are Donna Summer, Bee Gees and Abba, though one might say both Abba and the Bee Gees were more of pop groups with a catalog and resume similar to that of Madonna, with the ability to jump from one genre to the next. On the other hand, Donna Summer was referred to as the “Queen of Disco.” And, yes, it was true that she dominated the club dancefloors. Yet, I would argue that she were no different that Janet Jackson in her effort to make her music transcend the dancefloor while making art.
Therefore, it is my belief that Chic and KC & the Sunshine Band’s accomplishments and music should be reevaluated, as well as Sylvester, Grace Jones and Cher. All of these artists were given a huge black eye during the “Disco Sucks” backlash in the aftermath of that “Disco Demolition Night” in July 1979 in Chicago. First, I know the whole Chic argument seemed to be put to rest when the Hall, in its infinitely stupid decision, decided to induct Chic guitarist and half of the songwriting and production partnership known as the Chic Organization Nile Rodgers for Musical Excellence. But, how could the Hall overlook the contributions of Rodgers’ partner and bassist Bernard Edwards, along with the whole crew of vocalists, drummer Tony Thompson and other musicians who all worked together to not only create some everlasting dancefloor classics, but helped birth hip hop along the way. Remember, no “Good Times,” no “Rapper’s Delight,” and thus no big bang moment for rap music.
And, I could go on forever about my firm belief that what Chic did for R&B music with the “Deep Hidden Meaning” in their lyrics is exactly what Steely Dan did for rock. Yet, Steely Dan gets a Hall induction and universal adoration, and Chic, many of whose members were actual jazz, rock and jazz fusion musicians before coming together to form a band whose big hits happened to be disco standards of the day, are left out of the Hall. Few in the rock world can play bass like Edwards, play guitar like Rodgers or drum like Thompson. So, if you are going to ignoring Chic their due since of their disco hits, why then don’t we turn our backs on Kiss (“I Was Made for Loving You”), Rod Stewart (“Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?”) and the Grateful Dead (“Shakedown Street”) for their disco hits? As far as Chic is concerned, go listen to their first three albums, Chic, C’est Chic and Risqué, as well as the recent Chic Organization compilation, Nile Rodgers Presents the Chic Organization: Up All Night which collects the best of all of their production works with Chic and others.
Besides Chic, the other artists I listed who are all unfairly labeled as “Disco” are artists whose production work and musicianship influenced the way music moved in the year immediately after their successes and running into this very day. KC & the Sunshine Band paved the way for the Bee Gees big late-Seventies run by showing that Miami had a very vibrant music scene going on back in the day that continued through Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine’s Latin-influenced run up to today’s hits by Pitbull and others. Likewise, Sylvester and Grace Jones’ gender-bending images and lyrics made important strides for the acceptance of the LGBQ+ community during a time when acceptance was barely happening. And, Cher, who is now universally loved for her Bowie-like musical chameleon ability to adapt to the times, is still laughed at by the boomer-aged music critics running the Hall. Yet, that woman is a survivor and a forerunner to Madonna with a more diverse musical catalog.
Disco is NOT a “bad word” in music. The music represents the widest range of musical sounds within a genre this side of new wave. And, like new wave the sprung up in disco’s wake, the attitude of acceptance was everywhere. I am talking about the acceptance of race and sexual orientation. The problem for mainstream America is that all of this acceptance was beginning to make them feel as though they were loosing their “American” identity. Sound familiar? In this regard, disco was not really a mindless, feel good dance music movement but the beginnings of a revolution of liberal love and acceptance in a cultural war that is still being waged over four decades later. Will the insurrection that occurred on 6 January 2021 become the same cultural conflict point as Disco Demolition Night between games of a twilight double header in Chicago on 12 July 1979? Who knows, but as long as I am around, I will continue to point out the parallels between the two.
Please give disco its due! This was a fan moment in time, although I was actually too young to get the full club experience at the time. The one time I really did experience a “real” disco happened during that week I was in Fort Collins, Colorado, during the summer of 1978 for a national athletic event. But, does a disco for teens really count? Did I have fun each night? You bet! Then, yes.
So, get on with the countdown, will ya Keller? Here we go!
100. S.O.S. Band – “Take Your Time (Do It Right)” (1980)
99. Donna Summer – “Hot Stuff” (1979)
98. Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes – “Bad Luck” (1975)
97. Musique – “In the Bush” (1978)
96. Van McCoy – “The Hustle” (1975)
95. KC & the Sunshine Band – “Boogie Shoes” (1978)
94. G.Q. – “Disco Nights (Rock-Freak)” (1979)
93. Carol Douglas – “Doctor’s Orders” (1975)
92. Bell & James – “Livin’ It Up (Friday Night)” (1979)
91. Carl Carlton – “She’s a Bad Mama Jama (She’s Built, She’s Stacked)” (1981)
90. Brothers Johnson – “Stomp” (1980)
89. The Weather Girls – “It’s Raining Men” (1982)
88. The Pointer Sisters – “I’m So Excited” (1982)
87. Foxy – “Get Off” (1978)
86. Earth, Wind & Fire – “September” (1978)
85. Instant Funk – “I Got My Mind Made Up” (1979)
84. Michael Jackson – “Billie Jean” (1982)
83. Isaac Hayes – “Don’t Let Go” (1979)
82. Donna Summer – “She Works Hard for the Money” (1983)
81. Indeep – “A DJ Saved My Life Last Night” (1982)
80. Kool & the Gang – “Celebration” (1980)
79. Patrice Rushen – “Forget Me Nots” (1982)
78. Wild Cherry – “Play That Funky Music” (1976)
77. Ohio Players – “Fire” (1974)
76. Funkadelic – “One Nation Under a Groove” (1978)
75. Michael Sembello – “Maniac” (1983)
74. The Emotions – “Best of My Love” (1977)
73. Anita Ward – “Ring My Bell” (1979)
72. Alicia Bridges – “I Love the Night Life (Disco ‘Round)” (1978)
71. David Naughton – “Makin’ It” (1979)
70. Donna Summer – “Dim All the Lights” (1979)
69. BT Express – “Do It (‘Til Your Satisfied)” (1974)
68. Vickie Sue Robinson – “Turn the Beat Around” (1976)
67. The O’Jays – “I Love Music” (1975)
66. Shannon – “Let the Music Play” (1984)
65. Blondie – “Atomic” (1979)
64. Sister Sledge – “He’s the Greatest Dancer” (1979)
63. Disco Tex & the Sex-O-Lettes – “Get Dancin'” (1974)
62. Michael Jackson – “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'” (1982)
61. Tavares – “More Than a Woman” (1977)
60. Bee Gees – “How Deep Is Your Love” (1977)
59. Donna Summer – “McArthur Park” (1978)
58. Silver Convention – “Fly, Robin, Fly” (1975)
57. Sylvester – “I Wanna Funk” (1982)
56. Chic – “Everybody Dance” (1977)
55. Machine – “There but for the Grace of God I Go” (1978)
54. Donna Summer – “Bad Girls” (1979)
53. The Gap Band – “You Dropped a Bomb on Me” (1982)
52. Santa Esmeralda – “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” (1977)
51. Kool & the Gang – “Get Down on It” (1982)
Fifty more to go! See you next time. Peace.