On behalf of, ns guess, cultural criticism, I spent last night reviewing old Grammy Awards footage, similar to Sontag used to. Return the history of this particular industry spectacle (happening for the 56th time ~ above Sunday) says that world events are privately guided by some dads who’ve really acquired into the Mumfords lately, it’s tho an illustrative archive, yet skewed. The 1979 ceremony i watched was enlivened by some of the usual surreal juxtapositions: Ragtime pianist Eubie Blake (born in 1887) gift Best new Artist, and, together the official site puts it, “the Grammys controlled to carry out what it always does best—highlight all kinds the music, consisting of Chuck Mangione’s flugelhorn hit ‘Feels therefore Good.’”

What dominated the night, however, to be disco, illustration awards because that Donna Summer, A Taste the Honey, Earth, Wind & Fire, and the bee Gees, whose Album that the Year Saturday Night heat sat atop the album charts for half of the vault calendar year. Commerce has always been one method to impress unadventurous Grammy voters: a year later, even if it is to recognize or quarantine, the nationwide Academy of record Arts & Sciences presented a specialized Best Disco record category. Then it never handed the end the award again, the sea the potential winners supposedly drying up into difficult rock. What occurred to American run music in between two trophies?

That lone team of nominees for ideal Disco Recording to be shockingly well-chosen, offered the common Grammy approach to emerging genres, i beg your pardon reminds me of beforehand European navigation around Australia: lock knew something vast was there, but blundered obliviously in experimenting it. (The very first rapper who ever contended for Album that the Year? MC Hammer.) together the inexhaustible “Don’t prevent ‘Til You gain Enough,” there was Gloria Gaynor’s “I will certainly Survive,” Donna Summer’s “Bad Girls,” Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Boogie Wonderland” and also (here the writer glances come one side for number of moments) stick Stewart’s “Do Ya Think ns Sexy?” You know MJ’s single, vocal give up amidst the tightest horn charts, the saviour of any type of wedding dancefloor. “Boogie Wonderland” is a song about clubbing the end of hope anguish, and validates that so beautiful that i never even realized it until glancing at a lyric sheet. The various other nominees nothing untangle for this reason easy.

You are watching: Grammy award for best disco recording


“Bad Girls” belies the notion that disco was funk’s lesser sister or plasticized clone, snapping to attention through each ring of whistle outbursts. Why do not do it militancy sound this jubilant? Summer’s vocal is just as nuanced, observing the sex workers of the location from afar and also then identify a typical cause: “Now, you and also me, we’re both the very same / however you speak to yourself by different names.” They absolutely shared enemies; she composed the track after cops hassled she secretary, reasoning the mrs was a prostitute. And also although “I will certainly Survive” lurches through inevitability now—a cultural signifier therefore clichéd it would certainly seem too noticeable even in parodies—it escaped the bounds of tastefulness under its own steam. As Tim Lawrence’s disco history Love conserves the day records, “I will certainly Survive” was one of the very first hits that obtained over thanks to smitten society DJs, and also a rare chart-topping B-side. Grit your teeth and also listen come Gloria Gaynor’s power again. It came to be flagrant emotionally shorthand because that a reason.

I can’t muster that type of charity for “Do Ya Think i’m Sexy?” choose the brothers music writer Tom Ewing once noted, Stewart is to sing a personality study, not smirking serenely around his own monumental fuckability. Yet aside native the keyboard riff’s airy bravado, he provides his layout of halting come-ons as witless caricature, making the lyrical conceit seem more like a pretext. That being the case, i don’t desire to listen Rod Stewart supplying up his body to the deprived masses of the world. Ns don’t desire to hear Rod Stewart obliquely invoking sex through a device of Joycean literary allusions. The worst thing around having psychic abilities would certainly be any kind of day rod Stewart felt particularly sensual. Biblical apocrypha argues the serpent came to Eden attract a crinkly blond hair perm. “You bring a lady come your place put this track on and Rod has set the table for you!” to write YouTube user “Field Marshal,” also a big fan of Holocaust rejection videos.

“I will Survive” finished up to win the unique keepsake referred to as a ideal Disco record Grammy, but the visibility of “Do Ya Think i’m Sexy?” revealed other too often ignored by world like me, who might prefer to remember disco together a subcultural phenomenon, all sex-related liberation, feminist anthems and also black pride, summary encompassing Travolta et al. Pole Stewart had actually other target markets than the paradise Garage. The good majority that dancers weren’t uncovered in secret clubs choose the Loft or the Gallery, nor the aristocratic hedonism the Studio 54, however in less mythologized places far away native 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 the American Culture, Alice Echols recounts she DJing apprenticeship at Ann Arbor’s Rubaiyat: “On those occasions as soon as ventured upstairs, he would search the society hopefully for stray heterosexuals or for any sign that the society was tilting right … The society did have some pretensions come classiness, yet the mismatched, sagging booths and bordello red carpets defeated occasional initiatives at upmarket sophistication. What the Rubaiyat did have actually were better-than-average speakers, a heterogenous clientele, and also a weekend sheathe of 3 dollars.”

At that 1979 Grammys wherein disco broke through to music’s ultimate taste centrists, even the hold John Denver make a horrifying/endearing effort to emulate “Stayin’ Alive.” to compare its reasonably rapid acceptance to rap: no hip-hop documents won Album of the Year till 1999, a tally because expanded by one. (Paul Simon has four of them.) The society scene together vanguard seems partially to be retreat mediation—disco is always currently queer. But its oppositional fee was an ext diffused than rap, its formal departures subtler, its root in existing black pop simpler to trace. ~ a reactionary backlash helped decimate the anyway, the Grammys didn’t hand out an additional trophy because that dance music until 1998 (Donna Summer, revivified), which just demonstrates how limited awards mirrors are as histories. Disco shattered right into a hundreds glinting shards, but specific disparate human being retrieved them. So when Daft Punk appear at the Staples facility this weekend, performing a track that could’ve to be nominated 35 year ago, I will certainly look because that Nile Rodgers, who knows how delicate utopianism deserve to be, and also how elastic, too.

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Gloria Gaynor - ns Will survive (Live 1979)


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Chris Randle

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