During Disco’s powerhouse years of the mid-1970s, the Rhythm and Blues-influenced dance music crossed over to rock clubs and nightclubs from Chicago to Carbondale. When Disco was in the groove, it created a sense of freedom and broke down cultural and sexual boundaries.

However, gaudy outfits, orgasmic lyrics, layered synthesizers, and blow-dried hair defined Disco on a commercial level. In the early 1980s, Faces on Rush Street emerged as Chicago’s cologne-inspired cousin to Studio 54 in New York. At the same time celebrity actor Mr. T got his start as a bouncer at Dingbat’s, a near north side Chicago Disco that even hosted a Sunday afternoon “kiddy disco.”

All this noise made the genre an easy target for satire---none as remarkable as 1979’s Disco Demolition at Comiskey Park in Chicago. The promotion was sponsored by rock station WLUP-FM and hosted by popular on-air provocateurs Steve Dahl and Garry Meier. A small riot ensued and the second game of the White Sox doubleheader was canceled. The stunt attracted worldwide attention.

This was the day commercial disco died.

House music followed. Its beat was closer to the street and it defied any marketing. It was real. Frankie Knuckles (1955-2014) was the maestro of Chicago’s internationally known House Music scene. By the late 1970s he saw that record companies stopped signing Disco acts, so he created his own deal. House has a fast rhythm (up to 120 beats per minute) that is drenched in body movement. Its bass-heavy nature punctuated Knuckles’ early samples of Talking Heads, the Police, Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and more. The art of mixing in House music employed more effects and created a more trippy vibe than Disco. House music has emerged as one of Chicago’s most important cultural exports along with the blues and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Knuckles said, “House Music is Disco’s Revenge.” And without House, there’s no EDM (Electronic Dance Music), no Liz Torres (bi-lingual Latin House) no Derrick Carter (soul and jazz-influenced House), and a new generation of DJs and artists like Lady Gaga, who has employed deep House and electro House. Just like all powerful musical genres, House music continues to move forward with adventure and passion.

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