Who Knew I Was A Racist?

…because I hate (and always hated) disco?

Well, in for a penny, in for a pound. I hate rap, too. But as a commenter over there says, if I’m intolerant, it’s intolerance of sh***y music. And non-music (which I consider much of rap to be). In the case of both disco and rap, I’ve little interest in a repetitive form of music in which the percussion carries the melody.

And if I supposedly base my musical preferences on the melanin content of the musician, please explain my long-time love of Delta blues. In fact it never really occurred to me at the time that disco was black, or gay music. The Bee Gees were black? Or gay? Who knew? I only knew that it was really, really bad, musically speaking, and of appeal to no one except people for whom the only purpose of music is to grind around on a dance floor, and most of whom are probably tone deaf.

This is one of those things so stupid that only an academic could come up with it.

14 thoughts on “Who Knew I Was A Racist?”

  1. Oh Jesus. I’ll bet none of these Concerned Not-Racist sociologists was even alive in the heyday of disco. I can tell you that anyone who drools about the “wonderful” Seventies and how disco was some sort of gay, minority sub-culture of cool is invariably no older than thirty-five. As several commenters on that post have pointed out (to no avail so far), the reason disco was widely hated was because 1) it sucked, and 2) it was everywhere. Far from being underground, it was completely mainstream by the late Seventies, and you couldn’t get away from it. The fact that it was so popular among gays and Hispanics and black people only serves to show that the much-vaunted superior artistic and musical tastes of those minority groups was always overrated. It’s not racist or homophobic to point out that gays, blacks, and Hispanics like crummy shlock as much as white, straight people do.

    But you know, some Christian groups were burning records at the same time, so it’s all because of oooh scary! Xtianity.

  2. You have to look at the positives too, not just the negatives. Without disco we might not have the white polyester leisure suit.

  3. N’awlins (New Orleans) Preservation Hall Jazz: the BEST. One of my fondest memories is of opening the window to my hotel room off Bourbon Street and just listening to the wonderful jazz. From everywhere.

    I hate disco & rap because the first is puerile and the second is _mean_. Mean-spirited. Meant to hurt.

    Even the bluest of the blues has a wonderful soul within it. Disco & rap have neither.

  4. Rand: I don’t think anyone has ever claimed that somebody who dislikes disco must be a racist. It would be kind of a silly thing to say, not just because you can dislike a style of music for all sorts of reasons but because there were plenty of black people who hated disco, too. Funkadelic famously recorded disco-bashing songs, and no one’s going to claim they were racist.

    What historians have claimed is that anti-gay and (to a lesser extent) anti-black prejudice was part of the disco backlash. And they’ve backed that up pretty well — it’s not hard to find anti-disco sentiments from the ’70s that were mixed with overt bigotry. That doesn’t mean everyone who hated disco was driven by intolerance, or that they even knew the genre had gay roots. Just that it was there in the mix. Some music writers exaggerate it and some give the issue a more balanced treatment.

    Finally — anyone who thinks he hates everything about disco obviously has never encountered this album:


  5. Disco was everywhere during my junior high years. Fortunately, in my (rural) school, so was:

    Van Halen
    Def Leppard
    Olivia Newton John
    um, I have *no* idea how that last one got in there.

  6. I well remember in my tiny rural high school, that nobody had the slightest notion of what the Village People really represented…not that there’s anything wrong with it either way :-/

    But I can definitely see how Nik Cohn got his NY teenage angst from the British Mods, although the music from Saturday Night Fever in no way, shape, or form compares to the Who’s masterful Quadrophenia. But I do think that the mid-late-70’s Bee Gees have gotten a bit of a bad rap in retrospect. That is in no way an apology for disco, though (turns up White Stripes CD playing in the background)…

  7. So anti-gay and anti-black prejudice was “there in the mix.” So what? I’ve got news for ya: anti-gay and anti-black prejudice pre-existed the “Screw Disco Dan” posters. All those studies have done is made the stunning revelation that prejudice is part of human nature. Wow. I never would have figured that out without studies. How do we even know how to feed ourselves without studies?

  8. Oh, and I forgot: I heard some old Seventies disco the other day, and compared to a lot of the rubbish that passes for pop music these days, Seventies disco sounds like Rachmaninoff. And as for dancing — at least the Saturday Night Fever dance style had its roots in ballroom dancing — the current fashion of bump ‘n’ grind/ape-like bobbing up and down that they do in clubs these days seems to have its roots in what, those Discovery channel films of animals having sex?

  9. ‘Disco was everywhere’, ‘you couldn’t escape it’, ‘singers felt they had to do disco tracks to keep with the times’.

    Sounds like A} the obsession with ‘greening’ (calculating the carbon footprint of internet page loads?), and B} the Obama cult of personality.

    At least with these two all-pervasive annoyances, we have the ability to tackle both in a very efficient manner, by collecting Hope and Change Obama-logo yardsigns, bumper stickers, placards, T-shirts, banners, neckties, coasters, hats, cocktail napkins, baby bibs, limited-edition lithographs, etc. etc. etc. and burning them like in the “Disco Riot” video at the link, showing our contempt for the cult of personality while stomping the environment with a carbon footprint the size of a small coal-fired power plant.

  10. One of the organizers of the disco exhibit discussed in the Times article is Eric Weisbard, who also serves up inflammatory quotes for the article. I couldn’t find a bio of Weisbard in my 60 seconds of googling, but in the Youtube video of him discussing “Silkworm” (an indie rock band) he appears to be about 35 years old — i.e. he’s too young to have snuck into Studio 54. I suspect whatever theory of race, gender, and disco he’s formulated is pretty worthless.

    When I was the lead guitarist in my college rock band, I was firmly in the “disco sucks” camp, and for the most part I still am. But when I think of disco, the images that come to mind are (a) the Bee Gees, (b) John Travolta’s white leisure suit, (c) the Village People , and (d) Donna Summer. Pretty much in that order. The idea that the virulent reaction against disco was motivated by racism and homophobia is absurd. I was far more repelled by Tony Manero’s (Travolta’s) shallow heterosexual ubereroticism that by the antics of the Village People. And I still find the Bee Gees unlistenable, while even I have to admit that “Hot Stuff” is tolerable. And this theory fails to explain how a racist, homophobic discophobe can hold Jimi Hendrix up as the greatest guitarist of all time, and still enjoy “Ziggy Stardust” by David Bowie, “Lola” by the Kinks, and the like. In case the “historians of disco” haven’t noticed, blacks and gays are well-represented in rock and roll. The roots of rock in American blues is one of the things that make it COOL, fer crissakes. It must be something else about disco that revolts people.

    So, all you young dudes, back to the drawing boards. Disco still sucks.


  11. bbbeard: I’ve never met Weisbard, but I’ve been seeing his byline in music magazines long enough to be pretty sure he’s older than me. And I’m a couple months shy of 39.

  12. >>Weisbard<<

    Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it. I would hate to see the disco experiment repeated. I blame Carter. 😉


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