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Disco is an up-tempo style of dance music that originated in the early 1970s, mainly from funk, popular originally with gay and black audiences in large U.S. cities, and derives its name from the French word discothèque.

Like all such musical genres, defining a single point of its development is difficult, as many elements of disco music appear on earlier records (such as the 1971 theme from the movie Shaft by Isaac Hayes); in general it can be said that first true disco songs were released in 1973. One of the earliest was "The Love I Lost" by Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes. Initially, most disco songs catered to a nightclub/dancing audience only, rather than general audiences such as radio listeners. 1975 was the year when disco really took off, with hit songs like "The Hustle" and "Love To Love You Baby" reaching the mainstream.

Disco's popularity peaked in the so-called Disco era of 1977 - 1980, driven in part by the late-1977 film "Saturday Night Fever". Disco also gave rise to line dancinging; many line dances can be seen in films such as Saturday Night Fever.

Instruments commonly used by disco musicians included the rhythm guitar, bass, strings (violin, viola, cello), string synth (a type of organ), trumpet, saxophone, trombone, piano, and drums (sometimes using an auxiliary percussionist as well as somebody on a drum kit). Most disco songs have a steady four-on-the-floor beat (sometimes using a 16-beat pattern on the hi-hat cymbal, or an eight-beat pattern with an open hi-hat on the "off" beat) and a heavy, syncopated bassline. Disco also had a characteristic electric guitar sound.

Among the most popular disco artists of the 1970s were Abba, The Bee Gees, Chic, Sister Sledge, Michael Jackson, Donna Summer, Gloria Gaynor, Boney M, The Village People, K.C. and the Sunshine Band, Voyage, Salsoul Orchestra, The Trammps, Blondie, and Barry White. Many rock artists, from The Eagles to The Rolling Stones, discofied some of their songs.

Disco music diverged from the self-composed and performed rock of the 1960s, seeing a return (though not universally) to the influence of producers who hired session musicians to produce hits for different artists whose role was purely to sing and market the songs. Top disco music producers included Patrick Adams, Alec Costandinos, Nile Rodgers, Bernard Edwards, Quincy Jones, Kenton Nix, François Kevorkian, Meco Monardo, Greg Diamond, Giorgio Moroder, Tom Moulton, and Vincent Montana Jr.

In the early 1980s, George Benson, Patrice Rushen, Brothers Johnson, Commodores, The S.O.S. Band, and many other artists created disco classics. After 1980, however, disco music morphed into other forms, including house and Hi-NRG which, combined with an often overt racist and anti-gay backlash, caused much of the general public to lose interest in disco, giving rise to the phrase "Disco is dead."

In the 1990s a revival of the original disco style began and is exemplified by such songs as "Spend Some Time" by Brand New Heavies (1994), "Cosmic Girl" by Jamiroquai (1996), "Never Give Up on the Good Times" by The Spice Girls (1997), and "Strong Enough" by Cher (1998).

During the first half of the 2000s, there were disco releases by a number of artists including "I Don't Understand It" by Ultra Nate (2001), "Love Foolosophy" by Jamiroquai (2001), "Murder on the Dancefloor" by Sophie Ellis Bextor (2001), and "Love Invincible" by Michael Franti and Spearhead (2003).

See also: List of disco artists

A disco is a place where revellers congregate to socialise, also known as discothèque (see above), 'nightclub' or (especially in the UK) just 'club'. The Whiskey-a-Go-Go night club in Los Angeles, was the first disco in the United States. It opened on January 11, 1962. See main article: nightclub.