Whilst disco’s roots can be traced back to 60s rhythm’n’blues and soul, it was the songwriters, musicians and producers of Philadelphia who really began to shape a new direction for soul music in the mid-70s. Disco spread like wildfire from New York clubs – helped of course by the colossal success of Saturday Night Fever in 1977 – so that by 1979 it was ruling the pop charts on both sides of the Atlantic. In fact, disco had exploded across the globe to the point where it arguably cast a bigger influence over a larger market than the Beatles had with their music fifteen years earlier.
With several big name acts on top of their game (Chic, Donna Summer, Earth, Wind & Fire, The Isleys, Gloria Gaynor) it was Sister Sledge who not only broke through but topped them all with their album We Are Family, written and produced by the dynamic duo Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers, the brains behind Chic. The album yielded three enormous singles, all of which are featured on this playlist. Tell me, could you have omitted “We Are Family”, “Lost in Music” or “He’s the Greatest Dancer”?
Another emerging artist was Prince, plus it was the year that 21-year-old Michael Jackson left his brothers and went solo with Off the Wall. Towards the end of the year, the Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” would point to a whole new direction where rap and hip-hop would shape the sound for the new decade.
Blondie accomplished something that would have been unthinkable a year earlier – the blending of new wave with disco and, within a couple of months, M’s hypnotic Pop Muzik followed in a similar vein, delivering a huge worldwide hit.
It wasn’t all American acts either. Heatwave, The Real Thing, and Light of the World were torch bearers of what would become a massively popular British jazz-funk movement over the next two or three years.
It was also the year that the Village People unleashed an anthem that has filled every wedding reception dance floor ever since. Yes, the final year of the 70s began with “YMCA” going number 1 all over the world.
As you can see and hear, it was quite a classic year for disco.