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During Professors Derrico’S Lectures

During Professors Derrico’s lectures, I became interested in writing about disco and the significance of how disco influenced the 21st century. Disco music was noted for its intensity, fashion, and danceable rhythms that sprang up from various ethnic communities such as in New York, and San Francisco. During the 1970s, it was a time of a musical bridge from the rebelliousness of the 1960’s and became a new era of dance and music. During the disco movement, it was a time when people fought for rights in order to create a better society and intertwined a new music culture for people to enjoy. Compared to all the other types of music that were popular; for example, jazz and rock, disco brought people of many different genders, sexual orientation, and social class in harmony. Disco music was a musical genre that was to be able to diversify a dance floor at clubs during the 1960’s and 1970’s: My paper will discuss how disco was, in fact, one of the first forms of "voluntary integration" that American’s have seen and how disco music influenced artists and fashion of the 21st century. Throughout my life, I was never interested in disco music, but after the professor’s lectures, I’ve become aware of disco’s significance. Even though I am a classical musician, it’s important for me to listen to different types of musical genres; it almost seems I was missing out part of my life by not listening to disco before. In my paper, I will give examples of various disco artists such as Donna Summer, and how her single “Love to Love You Baby,” influenced people to love disco music.

What is disco music? Disco music is a musical style that occurred in the early 1970’s from America’s urban nightlife scene, and it first originated in house parties. The history of disco music sets back during the 1960’s through the 1970’s; first, African Americans and Hispanic societies across the United States introduced disco music and soon the popularity rose in the mid 1970’s. Although disco music became less influential in the United States in the 1990’s, it left a huge impact and significance to societies such as to gay men, African American, and Hispanics.

During the mid 1900’s, it was a time of an intersectional gay rights movement that came into light in the gay community. It was a time when the gay, anti war protestors, and feminists’ communities joined together to fight equal rights on their sexual orientation. On June 28th, 1969, the police raided a small gay dance bar in Greenwich Village, New York City and took advantage of the gay and lesbian people. At some point gay and drag queens would refuse to obey orders from the police and turned into an outrageous riot against the members of the police. Because of this event, it was a start of the new era for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community to make a change for equality and fight for their rights. This became one of the worldwide gay rights movements during the 1960’s and the lgbt community quickly organized into activist groups. In the news article, Why Dancing Was So Important at the Stonewall Inn, New York’s Newly-Landmarked Gay Bar, Thomas Lanigan was interviewed by Thump magazine, and replied what he felt and saw during the riot. He said, “It was the only bar where we could slow dance. That was totally revolutionary. Being able to dance with someone of the same sex changed everything in the way you felt about yourself. Because you were having an affectionate moment, you felt totally humanized." The Stonewall Inn was an important place because it attracted people of every class and gender, and it was the best place to socialize and bring the community together. Gays and lesbians also established an organization called the Gay Liberation Front to help and strike the battle for gay rights and their freedom of expression. This dance bar brought together a crowd of blacks, whites, and also Puerto Ricans because it was the only gay bar in New York City that accepted dancing. Going back to the disco movement in which disco music arrived in the midst of these riots and the encounter of public support, bars and clubs started to play disco music for gay people to meet and enjoy. The disco culture became to upraise during mid 1900’s and started to be an art form also for drag balls. Disco became a new style of music and dancing and gone an influence dance culture of nightclubs, and these nightclubs became a part of space where transgendered can enjoy and have freedom in cultural authority. Sadly, there is still brutal violence against transgender, queer, or to lesbians, but by having disco music they are able to enjoy. Disco music was all about the idea of celebration, pleasure, youthfulness, and sexuality, and became the first club to have sound systems.

Even though disco music was forgotten, because of disco music, gay men are able to dance and have freedom in the 21st century. In Los Angeles, West Hollywood, there are many dance nightclubs for gay, lesbian, and transgender to enjoy; disco music changed cultural and late night success. There have been disco appreciation nights at West Hollywood, where a DJ remixes different disco music on the dance floor so people can slow dance, and have a disco ball to create a nostalgic mood. Because of disco music, the scenery changed a lot from having a diversity of color in these nightclubs in West Hollywood, and became a historic location for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community as an oasis to enjoy and have freedom.

There were many black disco singers in the 1960’s that 21st century artists inspired; one of them is referred to as the disco queen, Donna Summer. She first sang as a gospel and church singer; this makes sense because disco retained strong qualities and similarities to gospel music. Gospel music was all about the salvation through God, but taking in the progression of another step into the profundity, disco can be translated as sex or love. Disco music is mixed with African American percussion, futuristic synths, integration and escape; to Donna Summer, disco meant as a religious devotion to sent out positive messages and sayings about liberation. To her, disco music was a dialogue where cultural threads can weave together to be stronger. Her airy sexual voice attracted many gay and lesbian audiences; her combination of a church rooted voice was a good template for 1970’s disco. Many pop singers now were inspired by Donna’s voice and looked to up her musicality; for example, in Beyonce single “Naughty Girl,” the lyrics were written by Beyonce herself, but musically “Naughty Girl” is a disco song that was sampled from Donner Summer’s 1975 song “Love to Love You Baby.” Like “Love to Love You Baby,” “Naughty Girl” had a similar story that was lyrics referencing to a celebration of sexual lust and desire. Beyonce really looked up to many disco singers like Donna Summer; disco established the base of Beyonce’s music in order to create a catchy beat and vocalization for her fans to listen and remember her.

In addition, not only Beyonce sampled Donna Summer’s single of “Love to Love You Baby,” but also she sampled The Chi-Lites’s 1970’s song “Are You My Woman.” In Beyonce’s debut solo album, Dangerously in Love, her song “Crazy In Love” was sampled by The Chi Lite’s song. “Crazy In Love” the song tempo is pretty moderate and Beyonce’s vocal range spans around one octave and uses many vocal riffs as what disco singers did in the 1960’s. The Chi-Lite’s was a famous vocal quartet during the 1970’s who lead a high lead vocal of electrified simple rhythms, and this musical interpretation had a similar effect to Beyonce’s music. Even though disco music hasn’t been heard that much, these big artists like Beyonce still sample from 1960-1970’s artists to market their musical style and make catchy rhythms and vocalizations. In the 21st century, we live in a world where pretty much all dance music is made electronically on computers with no live musicians. Disco music is like a breath of fresh air because it‘s mixed with different live instruments like horns, pianos, violin, viola, cello, trumpets, bass and electronic guitars, drums, and other percussive instruments such as the bass drum. Not only instruments, but also disco music sets up a live vocalist like Donna Summer for people to enjoy music raw. Disco music provided simple and repeated refrains of the lyrics, and became an easy way for listeners to understand and memorize the music easily. In Donna Summer’s music of “Love to Love You Baby,” Donna constantly repeats the main refrain of the title of the music, and the music became very catchy to listen to. The most signfiance thing about instruments through the disco era, is about how the disco drum beat also provided a driving and pumping beat in the background for people to dance. The simple, but yet strong bass lines and drum provided an important part of the listeners; disco music was very easy to understand and easy to dance at clubs because of those bass lines. These days the 21st century hip hop artists does many remixes and use the rhythm box, so the music doesn’t feel new and raw, compared to disco music.

Donna Summer was a very important artist to the people during the disco era; her vocalizations in the “Love to Love You Baby” made people comfortable in their own skin and their sexual orientation. Donna Summer wrote this song as a purpose for people to enjoy and touch themselves on the dance floor, as a sexual revolution. Donna Summer even stripped down while singing this song; she wanted everybody to feel and to have sexual desires. In the Washington Post, they quoted “With Ms. Summer’s sultry moans, breathy singing and sexually explicit lyrics— “Do it to me again and again” — the song became an instant hit in discotheques and underground clubs.” Her sexuality and throaty voice created a remarkable inspiration to her audience and to other artists.

Not only music, but also fashion became an influence for 21st century hip hop artists; this unique fashion trend was first created during the disco era. During the 1960’s and 1970’s, fashion theme dominated styles with flares, ruffle blouses, big gold chains, afro hair, and empire waists; during this era it was a time of bold and an overstatement style. Recently, the Migos and Drake brought back the disco influence in one of their singles,“Walk it Like I Talk It” In the article, Migos’ Stylist Shares the Key to Their “Walk It Talk It” Video: Definitely Ruffles, The Migos stylist Zoe Costello says, “Offset wears a pale pink suit, whose studded lapels recall the designs of Nudie Cohn, over a peach silk open-front ruffled blouse.” In the music video of “Walk It Like I Talk It”, it’s infused with the disco fashion with The Migos and Drake wearing bell-bottom suits, loads of ruffles, and gold chains dancing under a disco ball. One of the Migos rappers, Offset, wore a huge Afro which was a famous hairstyle during the disco era. The Migos’ stylist Zoe Costello, definitely helped bring back the disco look to life, and changed the fashion industry of high fashion brands like Versace to produce more disco like clothes. Costello also quoted, “ Quavo wears a patchwork denim suit with a ruffled poet blouse, unbuttoned to show off a stack of chains (including a gold pendant with the logo of the group’s record label, Quality Control), and an Afro wig with a pink Pucci-style bandana.”

Furthermore, another 21st century R and B artist who was inspired by disco music is Bruno Mars. In Bruno Mar’s single “Uptown Funk,” Bruno uses signature sounds and textures, and the use of mid tempo songs in 4/4 with heavy influences on disco. This song quickly charted to number one over the world because it brought back something new and different compared to all other 21st century hip hop artists. This song is composed with hooks, funk bass-line, guitar riffs, and brass sections, which were also musical elements, used during the disco era. Bruno Mars’ fashion in the music video also represented the disco styling with his gold chains, big sunglasses, and the pink suit. His music always attracted many fans to the nostalgic disco style with his voice suiting the retro style, and the energetic disco dancing in the music video.

In conclusion, people think disco is dying, but it’s not-it’s just evolving. There were many backlashes against disco music, and disco sounds started to disappear during the 1980’s, but the base of the foundation of disco is still there when we hear 21st century R and B singers or hip hop artist’s music. Donna Summer became an influential example of why people love disco music; she liberated disco’s culture and other artists followed her influence. Artists like Beyonce, The Migos, and Bruno Mars still influence disco music as their base to create music; they were inspired to other disco artists and sampled music to their singles. Without disco music, people especially in the lgbt community, African Americans, and Hispanics weren’t able to taste freedom and joy of dancing and self-expressions. Not only did disco music bring important musical characteristics and influence to create music for artists now, but also it helped sexual and cultural identity throughout its years.

Freelance Writer

I’m a freelance writer with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Boston University. My work has been featured in publications like the L.A. Times, U.S. News and World Report, Farther Finance, Teen Vogue, Grammarly, The Startup, Mashable, Insider, Forbes, Writer (formerly Qordoba), MarketWatch, CNBC, and USA Today, among others.