You Should Be Dancing
Is there a period in recent history that's been more unfairly maligned than the 1970s? The decade that gave us the Watergate scandal, the oil crisis, Margaret Thatcher, and the leisure suit also introduced the liberating music genre we call disco. While cynics snickered at the simple, anthemic lyrics and the thumping, syncopated beats, patrons packed nightclubs around the globe and across the country (New York’s lamented Paradise Garage and notorious Studio 54 were probably the best known) to embrace the sound and revel in the reflected light from the giant metallic balls that hung from the ceiling.
With Hot Stuff, her knowing reflection on the era, Alice Echols reminds us that the '70s was, in fact, a decade of revolution and disco music helped galvanize gay people, giving them an exhilarating sense of community on the dance floor.
As the '70s came to a close the popularity of the genre began to wane and headlines proclaimed "disco is dead." Pshaw! Following are some of the most indelible, enduring queer dance anthems that still serve as a call to put on your boogie shoes.
Alicia Bridges, "I Love The Nightlife"
Bridges, who came out as lesbian in 1998, remains one of the genre's quintessential one-hit wonders, but her song is a classic that turns up on countless disco compilations and always enlivens film soundtracks, such as The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.
Carl Bean, "I Was Born This Way"
More than a decade before Lady Gaga was even born, Bean, a gay Christian minister, was singing about self empowerment.
Grace Jones, "I Need A Man"
While the physical impact of the ambiguous Jamaican-American model-actress made her an influence on everyone from Annie Lennox to Lady Gaga, equally staggering is her uniquely powerful vocal talent.
Sister Sledge, "We Are Family"
This gay pride staple has been embraced not only by LGBTs but by football teams and anyone who needs to feel a sense of community.
ABBA, "Dancing Queen"
If this isn't the universally worshipped Swedish quartet's gayest hit, it's certainly the one that can get queens dancing fastest.
Donna Summer, "Last Dance"
Summer, controversial for making allegedly antigay remarks which she's since disputed, is probably the artist most synonymous with disco and this Oscar winner for best song (from the 1978 comedy Thank God It's Friday) is perhaps the song most closely associated with her.
Patrick Hernandez, "Born To Be Alive"
Besides the ubiquitous track that topped sales charts around the world, Hernandez's legacy also includes giving a young unknown named Madonna Ciccone one of her first professional jobs as a backup dancer.
Bee Gees, "You Should Be Dancing"
For many there's no more evocative representation of the era than a young electrifying John Travolta owning the dance floor in 1977's Saturday Night Fever.
Sylvester, "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)"
With a voice that could soar into the stratosphere, the late, great Sylvester was arguably the genre's most versatile singer.
Barbra Streisand, "The Main Event"
The legendary entertainer surprised many fans by stretching her talents yet again with this foray into disco that served as the theme song for her 1979 hit rom-com of the same title.
Barbra Streisand, Donna Summer, "No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)"
Two vocal powerhouses team for one sizzling, chart-topping duet.
Cher, "Take Me Home"
Even a post-Sonny Cher gave us some disco realness with this aggressive plea for some late night lovin'.
Diana Ross, "I'm Coming Out"
The incomparable Miss Ross showed multitudes of gay people the proper way to make an entrance.
Gloria Gaynor, "I Will Survive"
Often shrugged off as a familiar karaoke favorite, this remains the ultimate "fuck-you" anthem.
Madonna, "Deeper and Deeper"
The icon proves disco lives on by paying homage to the '70s with this video for an under-appreciated gem from 1992's Erotica that features not only a Little Joe look-alike but the immortal Holly Woodlawn herself.