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PBS has an excellent, new, three-part documentary about the disco craze of the 1970s. It’s called “DISCO: Soundtrack of a Revolution.”

I know that a lot of people have a negative knee-jerk reaction to the very thought of disco dancing and disco music. I think that’s mainly because by the end of the decade, the genre got watered-down, white-washed, and commercialized in a lot of stupid ways. And then the bloated, appropriated excess of that was met with an understandable backlash of widespread derision.

Still, this presentation of disco’s origins and its enduring legacy was fascinating and inspiring. You definitely should check it out.

Disco bloomed from an urgent synergy between music, dance, and social movement. Marginalized communities needed safe spaces. Gay people, black and brown people, and empowered women wanted to be able to dance together without getting arrested, harassed, or beaten. So, in Manhattan, a few visionaries who had the room for it started hosting private parties out of the reach of both the law and organized crime.

This freedom sparked musical innovation, which in turn nurtured greater inclusion and equality, becoming “an explosion of self-expression on the dance floor.”

Importantly, this self-expression was within a context of community — a celebration of individuality, together. Which is what really turns me on about it. All of our unique voices, full-throated and strong and as weird and wild as we want to be, together.

I didn’t take any notes while watching the PBS documentary last week, and I probably ought to freshen my memory before trying to write a sermon about it. But right now, these are the themes that are bubbling up as I think about everything the series introduced.

  • MIGHTY REAL. The complete title of Sylvester’s 1978 anthem is “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real).” This is a wonderful framing. On one hand, the song is a queer person’s majestic and unapologetic coming-out. On the other hand, it acknowledges the importance of each other — the space we create for each other, how we make each other feel. Our Real-ness happens together, and it is Mighty.
  • LET’S KEEP DANCING. Disco represented the birth of the modern DJ. Previously, in dance halls, after a song ended there would be a gap before the next song began, while the record was changed. Innovators in discotheques, however, used two or more turntables with which they could fade-in a new song right on top of the one that was ending. The party was uninterrupted. This seems like a metaphor for something — for Life. How we ride the transitions, engaging and flowing with ever-changing rhythms. We can take a break whenever we want to or need to, of course, but the music is going to keep on, and we’re invited to shake our groove things in perpetuity.
  • AIN’T NO STOPPIN’ US NOW. Disco’s reputation was crashing and burning by the early 1980s. But really it never went away. It got reinvented and renamed, and has persisted indelibly as an important influence on all subsequent music and cultural movements. From the beginning, it was an organic coalescence of soulful self-expression in community, and there’s no stopping such a thing. We simply continue to move and respond, commingling and hybridizing in all sorts of interesting ways, making music and making love. Again, it’s Mighty and Real.

This feels like a good way to wrap up Pride Month. I can’t wait to be with you on Sunday, June 30, at 10:00am.

We’re settling very comfortably into our new home — at q-Staff Theatre on the southeast corner of Broadway and Lead in East Downtown. If you haven’t joined us there yet, please come check it out! There are designated accessible spaces right in front of the theater. Please leave those rockstar spots for those who really need them. If you are up for a short stroll, there’s plenty of parking up and down Broadway and east on Arno. XO, Drew

©2024 Drew Groves

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