Disco may have died years ago, but the memorial service wasn’t until this past week.
We just lost disco queen Donna Summer last Thursday at 63 and the Bee Gees’ Robin Gibb Sunday at 62, both to cancer.
It’s difficult to explain to today’s kids, whose musical tastes are so much more diffuse, how profound an impact Summer and Gibb had on music and culture in the late 1970s and early ’80s. They helped define music in the spring of millions of lives, set the rhythm of a generation and, between them, went a long way toward creating an entire genre.
As much as anyone, Summer was the silky voice and fresh face of disco, her Last Dance helping make both her and the new dance craze the
pivotal and pivoting movement it became.
She strayed into the risque at times, blessed with a sultry voice that may have demanded it. But ultimately she was as wholesome as her name, and she became a born-again Christian and enjoyed a more-than-30-year marriage, a rare high note in her field.
The Gibb brothers, meanwhile, seemed born to popularize disco, and their soundtrack for the movie Saturday Night Fever was a landmark in American musical history. Their quivering falsettos, teamed with beautiful melodies and a beat that became epidemic, were a mighty convergence of talent, timing and fortune.
Disco had its detractors, of course. But its stars still burn bright in our memory, and none more brightly than these binary stars, who seemed to enter and exit the stage at the same time.