Disco music had its roots in 70s funk and soul music. Disco music had a full orchestral sound with bands that often included large horn and string sections. The music was extremely easy to dance to and was responsible for the openings of thousands of discotheques during the 70s, where people danced to the music under the traditional Disco Ball.
By far the most famous of the discotheques was "Studio 54". This disco palace in New York City was the place to be for the "in-crowd" in the mid to late 70s. The VIP room in the basement was where the major celebrities of the time hung out and danced the night away.
One of the first disco songs to achieve success was "Love's Theme" by Barry White's Love Unlimited Orchestra. It was released in 1973 and made it all the way to #1 on the Billboard Charts in early '74. Disco music continued to grow in popularity through the years of 75-77 with #1 hits like "Rock the Boat" by Hues Corporation and "You Should Be Dancing " by the Bee Gees. KC and the Sunshine Band had numerous #1 hits during this time including "Get Down Tonight", "That's the Way (I Like It)", and "Shake Your Booty".
Saturday Night Fever / Bee Gees
The 1977 movie "Saturday Night Fever", would take disco music to the peak of its popularity. The movie starred John Travolta and was about a troubled Brooklyn youth who used the discotheque as a way to escape the reality of his life. The soundtrack of the movie, containing mostly hits by the Bee Gees, became the the best selling soundtrack of all time. After the release of Saturday Night Fever and until its quick demise in 1980, disco music ruled the 70s pop music scene, and the Bee Gees ruled disco. The Bee Gees ended up having 8 number one hit songs in the disco era and numerous other top twenty hits on the Billboard Charts.
Donna Summer was one of the most popular female singers of the disco music era. In the early 70s, Summer sang back up for groups like Three Dog Night and had some solo success in Europe. In 1975, she decided to venture into the disco music sound. Her first disco single was the song "Love to Love You" which went all the way to #2 on the Billboard Charts. She followed this up with the hit disco single "I Feel Love" in 1976. At the peak of disco music's popularity in 1978-1979, she scored seven top 5 singles on the Billboard charts, including "Last Dance", "MacArthur Park, "Hot Stuff", and "Bad Girls".
The end of Disco Music
By the late 70s all of the major record companies jumped on the disco bandwagon and tried to profit on the popularity of disco music. Anything even remotely sounding like disco music was released and a lot of major rock bands tried to tweak their sound to resemble disco music. Songs like "Do You Think I'm Sexy" by Rod Stewart and Barry Manilow's "Copacabana" had definite disco overtones. All of this over saturation of disco music caused a backlash by rock music fans, culminating in the famous "Disco Demolition Night" at Comiskey Park in Chicago. On this night, local Chicago DJs exploded a pile of disco records with the crowd going wild and trashing the field. By 1980, the disco music sound had been replaced by the 80s new wave movement with the horns and strings of the disco bands being replaced by electronic synthesizers.