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My Top 10 Disco Favorites Plus One

Posted by on Aug 28, 2010

If most of us are products of the era we grew up in during our formulative years, then I’m a product of the disco era. Even though I was quite cognizant of war, civil rights and the like, I came into my own when disco became prominent. I remember loving Rock Your Baby the first time I heard it, and I never looked back. Sure, there was other music I enjoyed, but disco is what made me move, made me feel really good.

Later on there were a lot of people who said they hated disco, but I was always of the opinion that they said they hated it because it seemed to be in vogue. After all, I was in college during some of those years, and they’d have parties on the floor. What I noticed during one party, in which I refused to participate because I didn’t drink beer and I hated smoking and rock music at the time, is that people stood around and talked and did nothing else. One night on my own floor I decided I didn’t want to hear all that noise anymore, so I put on my disco records and turned it up loud. Within 10 minutes someone was knocking on my door, and when I opened it they asked if I could keep my door open because they wanted to hear what I was playing. And shortly afterwards, everyone was dancing and the rock music was gone. One thing guys never understood back then, and I’m not sure they understand now, is that girls love to dance.

With that said I decided to put one of my compilation posts together and highlight my 10 favorite songs of the era, with one added song that wasn’t of the era, but is about the era. This was hard because I could have selected 50 songs. But these 10 were the ones that got me up every time, and even now when I hear them in the car I jack the base up and my wife knows why. And she loves them as well; both children of the same era. Some of these I have stories for, others I just loved the song. Any for many of you too young to know some of these songs, I’m betting you’ve heard them in your favorite commercials.

If You Could Read My Mind – Stars On 54; this wasn’t a real group, and it wasn’t from the disco era. But it was from the movie 54, about the famous club in NYC back in the disco era, and I’ve loved this song from the first time I heard it. Of course it’s a remake of a Gordon Lightfoot song that I also liked a lot.

Boogie Oogie Oogie – A Taste of Honey, and my first introduction into the reality that there were women who played instruments and got down with the best of them. Who could resist that bass line; not me!

Staying Alive – Bee Gees; by the time this song came out we were ready for a revolution. John Travolta was already big on Welcome Back Kotter, and this showed him and the music in a different light. What disco didn’t have a multi-colored dance floor once this movie came out?

Turn The Beat Around – Vicki Sue Robinson; I don’t have a tale for this one, and I have no idea why I love it so much.

Play That Funky Music – Wild Cherry; are there too many more distinctive opening riffs than the one for this song? I have to admit that it wasn’t for at least 10 years that I learned these guys weren’t black; shows how I never paid attention to the lyrics of a song that I actually knew all the lyrics to.

Car Wash – Rose Royce; I heard this song around the time the movie came out, and the combination of the two cemented it in my mind. Of course, the movie was fairly stupid, but it had some big name performers in it, including Richard Pryor.

I Love The Nightlife – Alicia Bridges; here’s another song where I’m not really sure why it meant so much to me, except that I love how she says “disco round”.

Ain’t No Stopping Us Now – McFadden & Whitehead; the first time I heard this song I knew it was something different, something inspirational, and I pull it out from time when I feel I need a mental boost.

Shake Your Body Down To The Ground – Jacksons; come on, Michael Jackson and his brothers after all! I actually saw them in concert a month after this song hit #1, but my friend and I, being stupid, left a little early to try to beat the traffic home and missed them performing this song, a mistake I didn’t make a second time when I saw them in Buffalo 4 years later.

We Are Family – Sister Sledge; I loved this song a lot already, but then it was the theme song for the 1979 baseball champion Pittsburgh Pirates, when I was a big fan, and thus it worked its way deeper into my heart as my second favorite disco song.

Last Dance – Donna Summer; I loved Donna Summer, and I love Donna Summer now. This song almost seems to have been the last song of the disco era as well, but my mind is probably romanticizing that. It came from the movie Thank God It’s Friday, so technically it’s not a Donna Summer song, but no one else could have pulled it off and made it such a great song from a mediocre movie.

Disco Fever:
Turn The Beat Around

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A lot of great points in this post Mitch. I was definitely one of the publicly “Disco Sucks” people–who secretly liked a lot of the music. I hear you on the fact that most young rock guys are clueless about typical young women’s desire to just dance. Guilty as charged. Me and my friends would have hairsplitting debates on the value of bands/songs and albums. We Are Family is an incredible song and I smile every time I hear it. Can I add a plug for “Shame” by Evelyn King. It was huge in Philly ’cause she was a native and at one point had worked in housekeeping at our college during her struggling years.

The last thing I find extremely interesting about your post is how you call the era in which we both grew up the Disco Era–and it certainly was. But it was also certainly the punk era–how I refer to my time growing up. The best groups from both camps didn’t see themselves as enemies, they supported each other.

Lastly: have you ever been able to point to the line where disco ends and funk begins? I guess we don’t have to and just enjoy the music–but it’s interesting that some groups are more “acceptable” if they are considered funk. That’s why I still think that the most interesting artist of the era was prince–he mixed dance tunes with squalling rock guitar and R & B vocals.

Anyway–thanks for the post!

August 28th, 2010 | 12:13 PM

Phil, I actually have lines, though they might be different than yours. Funk preceded disco, with Sly & the Family Stone, Rufus, Parliament and I like to throw James Brown in there as being more funk than rock or R&B. The first song considered as a disco song was Rock Your Baby by George McCrae, but I’ve always been of the opinion that disco really didn’t start taking off until Saturday Night Fever, and then Staying Alive by the Bee Gees. It was on the fringe until then, but once it was in pop culture, we went nuts.

I actually didn’t see punk starting to come until the late 70’s, and it helped usher the word “disco” out of there and having people start calling it either dance music or hip hop. Hip hop and rap were totally different things that got merged as a category later on.

Love Prince, and I think he was the guy who bridged many styles together. Prince is just a genius; it didn’t matter what style it was, if he wanted to write it he did. The only song he ever wrote that I would never have guessed was one of his was Manic Monday by the Bangles; that’s how wide his influence was.

But disco… man, that was the happiest music period we ever had. No angst, no anger, no hating on anyone else. I remember an episode of Homicide in the late 80’s when these two guys were driving around and one guy kept playing this KC song. The other guy asked him why he kept playing that song and he responded “This is the way I want my life to go. Do a little dance, make a little love, get down tonight; nothing better than that.” And so it goes. πŸ™‚

August 28th, 2010 | 1:29 PM

I think James Brown can be credited as the Godfather of both soul and funk–that’s how influential and long-lived his career was. Add the dance moves–wow. No one came close.

I agree–disco had a much higher pop status in the culture than punk–which reveled in its outlaw background. I think that’s why the fall was so much more profound. Many bands identify as punk and openly celebrate their forebears. Not so much with disco–it’s either dance, electronica, house etc.

I do agree with you–the early 70’s disco era produced some of the happiest music ever.

What I find the most interesting is that the punk movement discovered and championed reggae. All that interaction ended up on street corners in Brooklyn–early hip hop/rap can be plausibly explained as an amalgam of punk, reggae, R & B and disco

August 28th, 2010 | 1:48 PM

What’s funny is that I didn’t know anything about punk until the early 80’s, when I let a friend talk me into seeing “Urrgh; A Musical War”, or something like that. Then there was this guy named Peter Ivers who used to show punk videos very late at night on the USA Network when it was brand new and didn’t know what to do with itself.

Actually, I think disco would have remained cool if some factions hadn’t started branching it out into some very odd things. Much as I liked Disco Duck, it was really more of a parody than anything else, and when Disco Lucy and Disco Fiddler on the Roof came along, I knew it was all about to implode in some fashion. The fiasco in Chicago; shame. But look at today, the commercials, the sampling for rap… disco was and is here to stay.

August 28th, 2010 | 6:50 PM

I didn’t have to click on any of them (except for the first one) to hear them. Of course I was just a wee child when these were popular.

August 28th, 2010 | 8:35 PM

Yeah, yeah… at least you’ve heard them and probably can’t get away from them these days. Great stuff!

August 28th, 2010 | 10:07 PM

Thanks, I just lost five pounds!

August 28th, 2010 | 11:47 PM

LOL! Keep your dancing shoes on, Kissie!

August 29th, 2010 | 12:50 AM

Mitch, those are really some of the greatest ever disco songs. As well I really like Imagination – Illusion and The Greatest Dancer by Sister Sledge.

August 29th, 2010 | 7:10 PM

Those are two pretty good songs as well, I must admit. Sister Sledge also had Lost In Music that I enjoyed.

August 29th, 2010 | 8:15 PM

I love them all!!! I, too, was a disco fanatic. I don’t know which of all these great songs is my favorite. I’m having trouble concentrating on commenting since I’m bopping around in my chair to Shake Your Body Down To The Ground – Jacksons πŸ™‚ But Stayin’ Alive…always makes you want to go strutting down the street and I can’t help but sing (off key) out loud. I had all the Bee Gees albums and was in love with Andy who was much too old for me. Groovy! πŸ˜› What a great post! It really got me groovin’ for a blah Monday AM. πŸ™‚

August 30th, 2010 | 10:32 AM

Glad to help. I certainly need to find a boost today; I really do hate Mondays. lol

August 30th, 2010 | 10:56 AM

Boy do those bring back memories….

August 30th, 2010 | 3:13 PM

I hope they brought back good memories; I know I was smiling while listening to them.

August 30th, 2010 | 7:08 PM

You can’t have a list without including the remix of “Love to Love You Baby” I thought the song was too sultry but it was the song that got everyone on their feet in the dance clubs—at least where I lived. Another great one was “He’s the Greatest Dancer” by Sister Sledge.

September 2nd, 2010 | 10:17 PM

I like both of those songs, but they didn’t make my top 10. I couldn’t dance to Love To Love You Baby, and though I liked the second one, I’d truthfully have to say I’m not sure it would have made my top 25.

September 4th, 2010 | 11:26 AM

Hey guys… I’m a sucker whenever I stumble on a top ten list. (It has to go back to David Letterman when I was a kid!) Anyway, it was a good read and thanks for taking the time to put it together. Keep up the great work!

September 5th, 2010 | 5:39 PM
Udegbunam Chukwudi:

Car Wash. Hmmmm! Is that same song that was covered by Missy Elliot and Christina Aguilera for the animated movie, Shark Tale.

September 6th, 2010 | 12:25 PM

You’ve got me there, Chuks; probably going to have to research that one for confirmation.

September 6th, 2010 | 1:11 PM

Just awesome music. I love it, even it is some kind of oldschool and I am “just” 20 years old. But my age does not stop me from listening to good music πŸ™‚

what about phil collins? heΒ΄d be in my top-10 list!

greetz from germany

September 17th, 2010 | 10:00 AM

Phil Collins wasn’t a disco artist, so he wouldn’t have qualified for this list.

September 17th, 2010 | 2:22 PM