What Are Its Roots?
THE roots or sources of anything generally have a lot to do with what is produced. What, then, about disco? What are its roots?
You may be surprised. Consider the cover of the January 1978 issue of Discoworld. Advertising one of the articles inside, it announces:
THE PARTY PEOPLE DISCO’S GAY ROOTS
Is that startling to you? Yet it is true that homosexuals have had much to do with the development of discos. And they continue to be a major force behind them. The new book Disco Fever published a list of discos, and observed:
“Some readers will recognize that many of the discotheques listed are gay discos or gay clubs. ‘Billboard’ magazine [a prominent entertainment trade journal] has estimated that at least 50 percent of the discotheques in the country are gay, which is not surprising since the disco movement got its primary impetus from the gay community. Invariably, as news about a new gay club with great sound and decor gets around, straight people who want to dance start knocking at the door.”
No efforts are made to conceal disco’s homosexual connections. To the contrary, the Detroit Free Press notes: “Disco probably will be remembered as the first cultural happening where gay participation was openly publicized.”
Yet more than that, there sometimes seems to be a certain pride about such gay connections. Richard Peterson, a Vanderbilt University sociology professor whose specialty is the social implications of contemporary music, observed that in the disco world being gay “is not only acceptable, it’s even sort of chic.”
There have indeed been great changes in standards of sexual morality in recent years. And discos mirror this change to a greater degree than perhaps any other feature of modern life. Pointing up this fact, Horizon magazine of May 1977 said:
“In the dancing of men with each other and women with each other, the disco represents a really drastic change in social convention and sexual attitudes.
“It is neither a secret nor an excuse for gossip that some of the best discos in America and Europe were started as gay establishments that began to open their doors to anyone who wanted to dance. . . . The fact that some discos are gay or ‘mixed’ is casually noted in night-life features of the major newspapers, which take for granted freedoms that until very recently were the basis of scandal.”
A Matter of Concern?
Rather than be concerned, many applaud the changing sexual standards. They are glad to see inhibitions set aside and welcome the new sexual freedoms that are so manifest among the disco crowd. But those who have high regard for the teachings of the Bible are concerned. Why?
Because, rather than approve, or even condone, homosexuality, the Bible condemns it. In his law to the nation of Israel, God stated: “You must not lie down with a male the same as you lie down with a woman. It is a detestable thing.” (Lev. 18:22) How serious was this matter?
God’s Word answers: “When a man lies down with a male the same as one lies down with a woman, both of them have done a detestable thing. They should be put to death without fail. Their own blood is upon them.” (Lev. 20:13) Yes, that is how God viewed homosexuality.
Has God’s view changed? Consider this apostolic admonition to Christians: “Surely you know that the unjust will never come into possession of the kingdom of God. Make no mistake: no fornicator or idolater, none who are guilty either of adultery or of homosexual perversion . . . will possess the kingdom of God.”—1 Cor. 6:9, 10, The New English Bible.
Yes, God’s Word plainly reveals that homosexuality is wrong, and that those who become involved in that way of life will not enjoy God’s blessing. In view of this, can you see why Christian overseers would express concern about the spreading popularity of disco?
Yet disco has other roots. What are they?
Roots of the Music and Dance
In the opening article it was observed that disco music is of recent popularity. But authorities say that its origins can be traced to earlier times. In a September 1977 feature article, “Evolution of Disco Music,” Discoworld says:
“What holds it all together, what makes it Disco music, in fact, is the beat.
“And the Disco beat, to the uninformed, did not begin one fine morning in 1965 . . . nor even when Van McCoy first dented the charts a decade later with his version of ‘The Hustle.’ That beat—the basis of Disco music—is Africa talking.
“Talk about roots. When you go to a Disco today, you are basically participating in a 1977 version of ceremonies that were going on eons ago on the West Coast of Africa. Certainly, Disco music has been spruced up with the latest technological geegaws such as twenty-four track recordings, synthesizers, eardrum-busting amplification, overlayed strings and cooing vocals. But strip away all those accessories and you’re grooving on the same beat that no doubt was moving the ancestors of Kunta Kinte.”
Does having an ancient African origin in itself make disco music objectionable? Obviously not, no more than if the music had an ancient Asian, European or American origin. What does bear on the matter, however, is the purpose of the ancient music. What kind of dances were performed with it?
Disco literature has commented on those ancient dances, and their purpose. In fact, the wild abandon of those ancient dancers is held up for modern disco dancers to imitate; they are urged to cast off the inhibitions that they may have. Discoworld of May 1977 says:
“The natives danced to exorcise devil-demons and evil spirits from their frenzied bodies and to coax Mother Earth to yield new crops. In spring they danced during ‘fertility rites’ so women would grow healthy children to perpetuate the species. They danced to celebrate new life and even to prepare for death. But no matter what the exact purpose of their dancing was, all dance was really a display of worship of their gods, worship that either paid homage to the gods; sought the gods’ good will; or tried to allay the gods’ wrath . . . The energy often became so intense that a young virgin girl or lamb would be sacrificed in the hopes that the blood spilled would appease the gods.”
Then, in advice to the modern disco dancer, this magazine article goes on to say: “It’s just a matter of letting yourself go. You must liberate your mind first; then your body will follow. When I dance I almost astral project and leave my body.”
Another issue of Discoworld also draws attention to disco’s roots “among Voodoo worshipers, primitive tribesmen, the Brazilian Macumba, and the Kalahari Bushmen,” and then advises: “Your body is a complex of energy forces blending into one another and connected to even larger cosmic energy forces. This is how the ancients saw it and how we’re beginning to relearn this. Try to become aware of every sensation while you dance until you gradually lose awareness, and blend with your surroundings.”
Do disco dancers heed this type of advice? Do they commonly let go in wild abandon? Note what the new book Disco Fever says: “With discotheques came disco dancing—a form of dance totally divorced from the discipline of the Hustle, yet completely at home with it on the dance floor. . . . Disco dancing—whether it is called free-styling or free-form—is doing-your-own-thing dancing.” Yes, it is an uninhibited, anything-goes style of dancing.
But is this objectionable? Is it wrong to adopt a style of dancing that the ancients used in the worship of their gods? Yes, for true Christians it is. Why? Because those gods of the nations were condemned by the Creator, the God of the Bible. He did not approve of the ancient fertility dances that were designed to stimulate the sexual passions of both participants and observers. Lamenting the situation that developed among the Israelites of old, the Bible says:
“They too kept building for themselves high places [sites where licentious rites were performed] and sacred pillars [phallic symbols of the god Baal] and sacred poles [representing a Canaanite goddess of fertility] upon every high hill and under every luxuriant tree. And even the male temple prostitute proved to be in the land. They acted according to all the detestable things of the nations whom Jehovah had driven out from before the sons of Israel.”—1 Ki. 14:23, 24; Isa. 57:5-8.
Yet, is there really basis for comparing what goes on in modern discos with ancient places where sexually arousing fertility dances were performed? Let’s take a closer look at disco.