On behalf of, i guess, social criticism, I spent last night reviewing old Grammy Awards footage, similar to Sontag provided to. Back the background of this certain industry spectacle (happening for the 56th time on Sunday) suggests that world events are covertly guided by some dads who’ve really obtained into the Mumfords lately, it’s tho an illustrative archive, yet skewed. The 1979 ceremony ns watched was enlivened by few of the usual surreal juxtapositions: Ragtime pianist Eubie Blake (born in 1887) gift Best brand-new Artist, and, as the official site put it, “the Grammys controlled to perform what it constantly does best—highlight all kinds the music, consisting of Chuck Mangione’s flugelhorn struggle ‘Feels for this reason Good.’”

What dominated the night, however, was disco, drawing awards for Donna Summer, A Taste that Honey, Earth, Wind & Fire, and the bee Gees, who Album of the Year Saturday Night fever sat atop the album charts for fifty percent of the ahead calendar year. Commerce has constantly been one way to impress unadventurous Grammy voters: a year later, whether to acknowledge or quarantine, the national Academy of record Arts & Sciences presented a specialized Best Disco recording category. Climate it never ever handed the end the award again, the sea the potential winners supposedly drying up into difficult rock. What taken place to American dance music in between two trophies?

That lone group of nominees for finest Disco Recording to be shockingly well-chosen, offered the common Grammy technique to arising genres, which reminds me of early European navigation approximately Australia: lock knew something large was there, but blundered obliviously in experimenting it. (The an initial rapper who ever contended for Album that the Year? MC Hammer.) alongside the inexhaustible “Don’t protect against ‘Til You gain Enough,” there to be Gloria Gaynor’s “I will Survive,” Donna Summer’s “Bad Girls,” Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Boogie Wonderland” and (here the author glances to one side for numerous moments) pole Stewart’s “Do Ya Think ns Sexy?” You understand MJ’s single, vocal abandon amidst the tightest horn charts, the saviour of any wedding dancefloor. “Boogie Wonderland” is a song about clubbing out of hope anguish, and validates that so beautiful that i never even realized it till glancing in ~ a lyric sheet. The other nominees nothing untangle for this reason easy.

You are watching: Grammy award for best disco recording


“Bad Girls” belies the id that disco was funk’s lesser sister or plasticized clone, snapping to attention v each round of whistle outbursts. Why shouldn’t militancy sound this jubilant? Summer’s vocal is simply as nuanced, observing the sex employees of the title from afar and then identify a typical cause: “Now, you and me, we’re both the same / however you speak to yourself by different names.” They certainly shared enemies; she created the track after cops hassled she secretary, reasoning the woman was a prostitute. And although “I will Survive” lurches with inevitability now—a cultural signifier so clichéd it would seem too evident even in parodies—it escaped the limit of tastefulness under its own steam. As Tim Lawrence’s disco background Love saves the job records, “I will Survive” was among the very first hits that acquired over many thanks to smitten society DJs, and also a rare chart-topping B-side. Grit your teeth and listen to Gloria Gaynor’s performance again. It became flagrant emotional shorthand because that a reason.

I can not muster that kind of charity for “Do Ya Think i’m Sexy?” prefer the brother music writer Tom Ewing as soon as noted, Stewart is singing a character study, not smirking serenely around his own monumental fuckability. But aside indigenous the keyboard riff’s airy bravado, he makes his theme of halting come-ons together witless caricature, do the lyrical conceit seem more like a pretext. That being the case, ns don’t want to hear Rod Stewart giving up his human body to the deprived masses of the world. Ns don’t desire to listen Rod Stewart obliquely invoking sex through a system of Joycean literary allusions. The worst thing around having psychic abilities would be any day rod Stewart felt especially sensual. Biblical apocrypha suggests the serpent concerned Eden attract a crinkly blond perm. “You carry a lady to your location put this song on and Rod has set the table for you!” write YouTube user “Field Marshal,” also a large fan the Holocaust refusal videos.

“I will Survive” finished up winning the unique keepsake called a finest Disco recording Grammy, however the existence of “Do Ya Think i’m Sexy?” revealed miscellaneous too frequently ignored by civilization like me, who might prefer come remember disco as a subcultural phenomenon, all sex-related liberation, feminist anthems and black pride, summary encompassing Travolta et al. Pole Stewart had other target markets than the sky Garage. The an excellent majority the dancers weren’t found in secret clubs prefer the Loft or the Gallery, nor the aristocratic hedonism that Studio 54, however in much less mythologized places much away indigenous Manhattan, even if it is that method Bay Ridge or Michigan.

And they to be hardly the awkward, uncle-shaped, Reagan-awaiting monolith of stereotype. In hot Stuff: Disco and the Remaking of American Culture, Alice Echols recounts she DJing apprenticeship at Ann Arbor’s Rubaiyat: “On those occasions once ventured upstairs, he would search the club hopefully for stray heterosexuals or for any type of sign that the club was tilting straight … The club did have actually some pretensions come classiness, but the mismatched, sagging booths and bordello red carpets defeated occasional efforts at upmarket sophistication. What the Rubaiyat did have were better-than-average speakers, a heterogenous clientele, and also a weekend sheathe of 3 dollars.”

At the 1979 Grammys whereby disco damaged through to music’s ultimate taste centrists, also the hold John Denver do a horrifying/endearing effort to emulate “Stayin’ Alive.” to compare its relatively rapid accept to rap: no hip-hop records won Album of the Year until 1999, a tally due to the fact that expanded by one. (Paul Simon has 4 of them.) The society scene together vanguard seems partly to be retrospective mediation—disco is always currently queer. Yet its oppositional fee was an ext diffused 보다 rap, its formal departures subtler, its root in existing black color pop less complicated to trace. After a reactionary backlash assisted decimate that anyway, the Grammys no hand out an additional trophy for dance music until 1998 (Donna Summer, revivified), which simply demonstrates how limited awards shows are together histories. Disco shattered into a hundreds glinting shards, but particular disparate human being retrieved them. So as soon as Daft Punk appear at the Staples facility this weekend, performing a track that could’ve been nominated 35 years ago, I will certainly look because that Nile Rodgers, that knows how fragile utopianism deserve to be, and also how elastic, too.

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Gloria Gaynor - i Will survive (Live 1979)


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Chris Randle

Chris Randle is a writer indigenous Toronto who has actually written for The Globe and Mail, The nationwide Post, The Comics Journal, Social Text, the Village Voice and also the Awl. Together with Carl Wilson and Margaux Williamson, he is one-third of the team blog back to the World.