2012: The Year the Music Died
Remembering disco legends

by Marco A. S. Freitas

At the end of 2011, Andrea Truden, a 68-year-old former country girl from Nashville, died of undisclosed causes in a small town in the state of New York. A former erotic film starlet, she was even more famous in the 1970s on dancefloors everywhere by her stage name, Andrea True, via her exciting disco hits that are still often heard on radio and television today. "More, More, More", released by the "Andrea True Connection", reached number 4 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in 1976 and was also a chart topper in countries like Germany, the United Kingdom, Brazil, and Italy. In early 1977, she released the single "N.Y., You Got Me Dancing", from her follow-up album White Witch. It reached number 27 on Billboard's pop chart and became Andrea's second biggest hit. In 1978, "What's Your Name, What's Your Number" reached number 34 on the UK pop chart.

In retrospect, True's passing sort of served to foretell of more deaths in the world of Disco during 2012. These deaths struck deep blows in the hearts of Disco fans.

Beginning in February, a man who helped to boost brotherhood and, ultimately, unity through an initially local Illinois television show he'd created, took his own life. Don Cornelius (27 September 1936 - 1 February 2012) was the man and Soul Train was his game. His groundbreaking programme introduced new dance moves, fashions, and hairstyles to many a suburban white kid in the United States. It was one of the first programmes to shine a spotlight on African-American cultural expressions that had been, until then, relegated to big city ghettoes, hence contributing to their crossing over to mainstream audiences and giving a major hand in the tearing down of racial barriers. Of course, Soul Train was not a Disco music show per se, yet it presented many '70s soul, funk, and pop groups and solo artists (the O'Jays, Joe Tex, Johnnie Taylor, Lou Rawls, and many, many others) whose song catalogues morphed into the '70s dance craze. Vicki Sue Robinson's "Turn the Beat Around", Mtume's "So You Wanna Be A Star", and Deniece Williams's "I've Got the Next Dance" were just a few of the Disco songs heard on the show.

In May, two losses in the Disco world happened within 72 hours of each other. My favourite female vocalist and music diva (I am NOT using the word "diva" pejoratively) Donna Summer (31 December 1948 - 17 May 2012) passed away first. She was a lady who proved in her four decades in show business that she had a God-given gift to master basically any musical style there ever was. Her contributions to Disco in particular included "Could It Be Magic", "Spring Affair", "I Love You", "Dim All the Lights", "On the Radio", and "Last Dance". Over 130,000,000 albums and CDs later, I guess not many folks would dispute her pipes' abilities.

A native of the British Crown Dependency known as the Isle of Man, Robin Gibb (22 December 1949 - 20 May 2012) was an irreplaceable part of the multi-platinum megagroup The Bee Gees, who Disco fans cherish for their disco hits "You Should Be Dancing" (1976) and "Night Fever" (1977) from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, which made disco the most popular form of music for the next two years.

I really don't think it's too far-fetched nor far-reaching to compare the years 2012 and 1959. In folk singer Don McLean's 1971 melancholy-driven song "American Pie", in which he sung about "the day the music died", he designed a virtual painting of Americana framed by a trio of popular artists - Ritchie Valens, The Big Bopper, and Buddy Holly - who were all victims of the same plane crash on 3 February 1959.

Something somewhat akin to that fateful day in 1959 happened in 2012, when Don Cornelius, Donna Summer, and Robin Gibb took their shiny, mirrored disco ball to that big party in the sky. Their contributions are bigger than the entertainment they developed and created. Summer's and Gibb's singing will be copied and revered maybe hundreds of years from now... decades after many of us have turned to dust and from dust to nothing at all. Their cultural legacies have been woven into the fabric of whoever busts a move from now on, shaking his or her moneymaker in synch to the mover's pulsating hearts, caught in a throbbing wave of freedom and self-expression, the likes of which few have ever known.

Andrea True told VH1 in 2002, "I want to be remembered as someone who brought people joy with my music." Don Cornelius signed off each Soul Train episode with wishes of "love, peace, and soul." Donna Summer became a runaway hit when she "felt love" in plain view (in 1977's techno hit "I Feel Love"). And Robin Gibb, backed up by his sibling Barry, challenged people to get off their own backs and start dancing.

I guess even the most incredulous portion of our beings should think twice before doing a bad deed in the future, considering the party we can miss not being invited to up there, for the lineup in the heavens promises to place anyone present in cloud nine. Literally.

Marco Freitas graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Film from Columbia College Hollywood. He's been a movie buff since early childhood as well as a true fan of Disco music and a faithful follower of DiscoSavvy.com.

Copyright ©2013 Marco Antonio Santos Freitas, all rights reserved. Published at DiscoSavvy.com with permission of the author.

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