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"While the link between reggae and hip hop may seem stronger than that between reggae and disco, both hip hop and disco relied, in their nascent state, on the same type of proto-disco records."--Jahsonic

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Before the term disco was coined in around 1973, the phrase "discotheque records" was used to denote music (45s and album tracks) played in New York private rent or after hours parties like the Loft and Better Days. The records played there was a mixture of funk, soul and European imports. These proto-disco records are basically the same records that DJ Kool Herc played in the old-school hip hop scene.

Examples of those early "proto-disco" tracks that had a particular groove and sound that made them a hit on New York discotheques like the Loft, was "Soul Makossa", "The Player" by First Choice (1974), "The Bottle" and "Love is the Message."

The disco DJs had to make do with 7" 45rpm records or LP records, because the first twelve inch recordings only appeared in 1975.

Disco has its musical roots in late 1960s soul, especially the Philly and New York soul, both of which were evolutions of the Motown sound. The Philly Sound is typified by lavish percussion, which became a prominent part of mid-1970s disco songs. Music with proto-"disco" elements appeared in the late 1960s, with "Tighten Up" and "Mony, Mony," "Dance to the Music," "Love Child" . Two early songs with disco elements include Jerry Butler’s 1969 "Only the Strong Survive" and Manu Dibango's 1972 "Soul Makossa" . The term disco was first used in print in an article by Vince Aletti in the September 13 1973 edition of Rolling Stone Magazine titled "Discotheque rock '73: Paaaaarty!" by Vince Aletti.

The early "disco" sound was largely an urban American phenomenon with such legendary producers and labels such as SalSoul Records (Ken, Joe and Stanley Cayre), Westend Records (Mel Cheren), Casablanca (Neil Bogart) and Prelude (Marvin Schlachter) to name a few, inspiring and influencing such prolific European dance track producers such as Giorgio Moroder and Jean-Marc Cerrone. Moroder was the Italian producer, keyboardist, and composer who produced many songs of the singer Donna Summer. These included the 1975 hit "Love to Love You Baby", a 17 minute-long song with "shimmering sound and sensual attitude". calls Moroder "one of the principal architects of the disco sound".

The disco sound was also shaped by the legendary Tom Moulton who wanted to extend the enjoyment of the music thus single-handedly creating the "Remix" which has influenced many other latter genres such as Rap, Hip-Hop and Pop. DJs and remixers would often remix (i.e., re-edit) existing songs using reel to reel tape machines. Their remixed versions would add in percussion breaks, new sections, and new sounds. Influential DJs and remixers who helped to establish what became known as the "disco sound" included David Mancuso, Tom Moulton, Nicky Siano, Shep Pettibone, the legendary and much sought after Larry Levan, Walter Gibbons, and later, New York Born Chicago "Godfather of House" Frankie Knuckles. Disco was also shaped by nightclub DJ's such as Francis Grasso, who used multiple record players to seamlessly mix tracks from genres such as soul, funk and pop music at discoteques and was the forerunner to later styles such as hip-hop and house.

Proto-disco classics


CD compilations discography: Super Rare Disco (1997) - Various

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Proto-disco" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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