Tangent Sunset

The History of Conscious Music by Alex Cosper

Birth of a Disco Nation


The sound that began transforming America into a 24/7 dance party was disco. It had roots in Latin music and was ushered into American consciousness via R&B artist Barry White with his solo efforts as well as orchestral work with Love Unlimited Orchestra. From early 1974 on the emphasis on pop records began to shift more and more from lyrics and melody to repetitious dance beats. By 1976 the disco sound, which was built on quarter note drum beats could be heard on most pop records. Disco also brought back traditional ballroom dance patterns borrowed from dances like the fox trot, cha-cha and mambo. Disco was heavily driven by beat and not necessarily lyrics or inventive melody. Some disco songs, however, were inventive like the wordy "Stayin' Alive" by The Bee Gees, or the storyline in Barry Manilow's "Copacabana." Another decent storyteller who went disco was Rod Stewart in "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy."

One of the most unique disco hits at the time was the humorous "Rapper's Delight" by Sugar Hill Gang, which turned out to be the first rap record to make the top 40 in 1980. The women's movement got a boost from Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive," which happily declared independence from a relationship. Disco seemed to have a more interesting sound when it fused with new wave in Blondie's "Heart of Glass" and some one hit wonders like "Pop Muzik" by M and "Funky Town" by LippsInc, which all sounded strange at the time. Meanwhile the development of funk was producing some exceptionally innovative dance records as in "Love Rollercoaster" by Ohio Players, "Superstition" by Stevie Wonder, "Brick House" by The Commodores, "Got To Give It Up" by Marvin Gaye, "Shining Star" by Earth, Wind & Fire and "Tear The Roof Off The Sucker" by Parliament. A very interesting softer funk but incredibly surreal record was "Strawberry Letter #23" by Brothers Johnson.



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