The History of Disco

Origin of the Genre

Disco came out in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It quickly overtook funk as the popular music of the times. Its origins were in New York, then it spread to Miami, Chicago, San Francisco, and other big cities. In the early days, it was not played on the radio even though that’s what people wanted to hear. This meant that the DJs became very popular in the disco scene. Disco entered the mainstream by about 1977.

Characteristics of the Genre

Disco was a dance music with a very fast tempo. It has a time signature of 4/4, and is guitar driven often with syncopated bass lines. It is also known for its string sections, horns, electric piano, synthesizers, and electric rhythm guitars.

Social Implications

Disco was a subculture that created a camaraderie between races and genders. The genre sold sex, drugs, and dancing, and it didn’t matter with whom. Disco came along with dances, including the bump, and the hustle. It also became legal for people of the same sex/gender to dance with each other, which was revolutionary to the subculture.

Important Performers

KC and the Sunshine Band were a multi-member and racially integrated group that made many popular disco hits.

Donna Summer was one of the pioneers of disco. Her moaning became a famous attribute to her music. 

Gloria Gaynor was another disco diva who carried many hits throughout the disco era.


With disco came the popularity of discotech nightclubs such as Studio 54 in New York. This specific discotech culture was depicted in movies like Saturday Night Fever, which starred John Travolta.

Disco Magic was a dance show similar to Soul Train that highlighted popular artists and dances.

Earth, Wind, and Fire did not consider themselves to be disco, but they sold one disco hit, Boogie Wonderland.

Influences of Future Genres

House music is the first direct descendant of Disco. It is a mix between classic Disco and Eurobeat pop, and focused on the DJ who would mix the music live. Techno is another descendant of disco, and it is a fast-paced electronic music.

Conclusory Opinions

Disco was a genre that came along with the time of being free and themselves. By 1979, Disco was in decline, but it left behind a legacy. None of the young people thought they would face any consequences, but many of them ended up in jail or as addicts. At the end of the disco era, there was a disco demolition, and many disco records were actually destroyed.

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