Disco Message Songs

While many disco songs are about dancing, partying, and romancing, there are other songs that have deeper messages. Here are some examples of songs with very meaningful lyrics - songs about economic troubles, about making major decisions in life, about taking a stand, about leaving harmful relationships, etc.

BAD LUCK by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes (1975)
written by John Whitehead, Gene McFadden, and Victor Carstarphen
Says that lately you've been having some tough losses in your life. You're going broke, you're about to lose your home, and your love relationship is in shambles. But what happened to you is just bad luck. You were fooled by the bookies into gambling on your money. But, you know something? Lots of other people in today's world are having troubles, too. A lot of other people aren't really satisfied with their lives. And there's so much bad news in the newspapers, about the health effects of smoking and about price inflation and how President Nixon gave up his office and betrayed his nation. But at least the singer still has his faith in God and Jesus.

PRAYIN' by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes (1979)
written by Gene McFadden and John Whitehead
A heartfelt sentiment that even this not particularly religious man still hopes that someone will answer his prayers. Every night before he goes to sleep he prays for the hungry, the helpless, the pained, the weak, his relatives, and everybody else. Everybody needs a prayer.

WHO CAN WE TRUST by Love Committee (1980)
Complains that the cost of living is getting high and some people are having dire financial difficulties. Also says that it isn't safe to walk the streets at night due to high crime rates. Asks who can be trusted to tell the truth about what's going on in these hard times. Let's stand together and get through the recession together.

LAW AND ORDER by Love Committee (1978)
written by Allan Felder, Norman Harris, and Ron Tyson
It's important to have law and order in our country, including in the ghetto neighborhoods. It's your responsibility to report a crime. And we need to ensure that lawbreakers, including robbers and murderers, go to prison. Make sure children go to school and teach them peace, love, and harmony and to live by "the golden rule". That way our country will again be "the Promised Land".

ALL ABOUT THE PAPER by Loleatta Holloway (1979), The Dells (1980), and Gene Chandler (1980)
written by Lowrell Simon and Clarence McDonald
If you want possessions and money, you need to work towards your goals. Go and get your college diploma to enhance your chances in life, and then keep on learning to earn even more.

AIN'T NO STOPPIN' US NOW by McFadden and Whitehead (1979)
written by John Whitehead, Gene McFadden, and Jerry Cohen
We aren't going to let other people hold us back anymore. We're going to improve ourselves and, with renewed confidence, try to get somewhere. We have a long way to go, and the future is uncertain, but at least we won't give other people power over our lives. You surely know someone who is always trying to get you down with negative thoughts, but those losers don't have any future or goals, so don't listen to them.

DON'T FEEL BAD by McFadden and Whitehead (1980)
written by John Whitehead, Gene McFadden, and Jerry Cohen
Don't lose hope just because you don't have everything you need or aren't succeeding as much as you want to, because one day success will come your way. Sure, you need to have motivations, but you also need to make sacrifices. Money can't buy you health, and material goods aren't the be-all and end-all of life, so do you really need an excess of wealth and possessions? Can you deal with what you have right now? Don't give up!

DEVIL'S GUN by C.J. and Co. (1977)
written by Barry Green, Ronald Roker, and Gerry Shury
Don't let evil get the best of you. Stop following the ways of the devil so that you don't burn.

THERE BUT FOR THE GRACE OF GOD GO I by Machine (1979)
written by August Darnell and Kevin Nance
Pokes fun at racists, homophobes, and Jew-haters and how they like to exclude, and live far from, people that aren't like them. The song revolves around a Bronx family that just had a child, and they don't want to live near blacks, Jews, and homosexuals, so they move. As the child grows up, the father doesn't let her listen to rock-and-roll music in the home. When she becomes a teenager, she becomes a drug addict and runs away from home to live an irresponsible life. The mother then realizes that overprotection of children from the real world can lead to rebellion and tragic consequences.

POWER AND REASON (MR. EXX ON 52nd STREET) by Machine (1980)
written by Kevin Nance
Attacks American oil companies by claiming that they don't care about average American people, since they're raising prices too high and have lots of influence on the federal government. The song describes the companies' allegedly excessive profits as "stealing".

(DON'T) GIVE HATE A CHANCE by Jamiroquai (2005)
written by Jay Kay, Rob Harris, and Matt Johnson
An anti-hate, pro-love message opposing people who use religion as a weapon to divide people and hate those different from themselves. When will the hate stop?

LOST IN MUSIC by Sister Sledge (1979)
written by Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers
Laments how some musicians get so caught up in performing for their fans that their whole lives revolve around music, to the extent that they become "lost in music" and "caught in a trap". Some of them quit their day jobs and don't think about the future, only the present day. Some of them lose their minds and everything else, and become irresponsible.

SO YOU WANNA BE A STAR by Mtume (1980)
written by James Mtume and Reggie Lucas
People love winners. It took a while to reach the pinnacle of success, but now you're at the top of your game. Your life is pretty good: you have a chauffered car, you drink the best liquor, your name is in lights. But what are you going to do when your time in the spotlight ends? Why are you hanging around freaks? Your "friends" don't seem like good characters. Is pleasure-seeking all you do, Mr. Musician/Mrs. Moviestar? Are you still grounded in reality, or is your life a dreamland? Hmm, are you sure you still want to be a star?

COPACABANA (AT THE COPA) by Barry Manilow (1978)
written by Barry Manilow and Bruce Sussman
The tragic story of a 1940s showgirl, Lola, who met and fell in love with a bartender named Tony. One day a rich man named Rico watched her dance routine and afterwards asked for her. When he discovered she already has a boyfriend, he got into a fight with Tony and there were punches, chair smashings, and even a gun shot. The result was that Tony was killed. Now it's the disco era and Lola, reminiscing about her past, is drinking heavily and has lost her mind.

LOVE TRAIN by the O'Jays (1972)
written by Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff
Hey, peoples of the world, let's become friends. It's time for the countries of the world to make peace with each other. The song references conflicts of the day, such as between Egypt and Israel, and suggests that people also need to hear this message of peace in places like England, Russia, China, and Africa.

LET'S CLEAN UP THE GHETTO by Philadelphia International All-Stars (1977)
written by Kenneth Gamble, Leon Huff, and Cary Gilbert
References a worker's strike in Philadelphia and the fact that black people are living in bad conditions in the inner city ghetto. The lyrics suggest that black people should work together and take responsibility, rather than entrusting government officials to help solve their problems.

NOW IS THE TIME by Jimmy James and the Vagabonds (1976)
written by Biddu
Preaching against nuclear weapons, revolution, and wasteful use of the earth's resources, this song urges listeners to unite and fix human-created problems in the world now rather than waiting until it's too late.

YOUNG HEARTS RUN FREE by Candi Staton (1976)
written by David Crawford
She urges you not to get stuck in a failing relationship like her. Live your life to the fullest, and don't love the wrong man, especially not a man who cheats and makes you psychologically dependent on him. She wishes she could break away from her miserable existence. She vows to learn more about herself and love herself and her children. Her lament continues in the 1978 follow-up titled VICTIM.

I'M COMING OUT by Diana Ross (1980)
written by Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers
She wants the world to see the new her. She's proud of herself and has a positive attitude about her future. She has a lot of abilities and plans. You have to see what she's really about, because she won't hide herself from you anymore.

TO EACH HIS OWN (THAT'S MY PHILOSOPHY) by Faith, Hope, and Charity (1975)
written by Van McCoy
Stay out of other people's lives when you have no business interfering and don't know what's best for them. Each person is an individual. Live and let live.

I WAS BORN THIS WAY by Carl Bean (1975) and Johnny Rodriguez (1995)
written by Bunny Jones
The singer proclaims that he's a homosexual and that he was born this way. He asks that people stop mocking, judging, and criticizing him based on this fact of nature he has no control over.

WHAT A FOOL BELIEVES by the Doobie Brothers (1978)
written by Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins
Sentimental fools are apt to believe things that wise men can reason away. Can you distinguish reality from your imagination? The song is about a man who, encountering his former girlfriend, still thinks his relationship with her meant something, but the woman doesn't remember it so fondly. He doesn't realize that he has no future with her, and that she never cared much about him.

I WILL SURVIVE by Gloria Gaynor (1978)
written by Dino Fekaris and Freddie Perren
The singer used to be dependent on a man, not being able to imagine life without him. But then she kept thinking how he was hurting her, and eventually she summoned up the courage to knock him out of her life. Her former boyfriend is no longer welcome in her home. She has to get on with her life now, and can love other people who would truly care about her. She will survive this breakup. Some other breakup songs like this are STRONG ENOUGH by Cher (1998) and SPEND SOME TIME by the Brand New Heavies (1994).

TASTE OF BITTER LOVE by Gladys Knight and the Pips (1980)
written by Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson
This is a harsh song about how saying "sorry" or "please" or begging won't be sufficient this time. Now the tables have turned, you're feeling terrible, and you've learned your lesson. Sweet love has turned into bitter love.

OOH, C'MON by The Company (2000)
written by Bryan Everett
Hey, we all have problems from time to time and get lost. But the singer wants to show you a better way. She claims that no one else can save you, or set your soul so free, except Jesus. She wants you to follow Christianity, but won't pressure you or tell you what to believe. In the end, it's your decision.

SHOULD I LET HIM GO? by The Company (2000)
written by Bryan Everett and Bradley Swanson
It's hard to find a good man these days. God, please tell me, is he the right man for me, or should I let him go?

EARTH CAN BE JUST LIKE HEAVEN by Two Tons of Fun (1980)
Treat others the way you'd like to be treated. This will help make this world a better place. What's more, acting in a kind and giving way towards others will benefit you over time, since you reap what you sow.

FIRST BE A WOMAN by Leonore O'Malley (1979)
written by Michaele/Lana and Paul Sebastian
Extols the benefits of women acting feminine (sexy, graceful, etc.). While not trying to discourage women from accomplishing many things that men accomplish (such as working as a pilot, astronaut, business executive, or detective), the lyrics argue against women trying to act too manly. It's a fiction that women and men should try to be as much alike as possible. Women should celebrate their differences.

MACHO MAN by the Village People (1978)
written by Jacques Morali, Henri Belolo, Victor Willis, and Peter Whitehead
Some say this is actually a parody on the American "macho" culture. Others, including Village People singer Felipe Rose, take the lyrics at face value as a pro-man anthem about how men should act tough and build their physical strength by working out.

RASPUTIN by Boney M (1978)
written by Frank Farian, George Reyam, and F. Jay
Based on the sorry tale of Rasputin, a deeply religious man who seduced the Russian queen in the early 20th century after allegedly healing her son from hemophilia, but after time went on he became more outrageous in his behavior and would have a tendency to drink too much. At the end, conspirators tried to poison his wine, but he somehow survived drinking it, and only died by gunshot.

AFRICAN QUEENS (MEDLEY: NEFERTITI, CLEOPATRA, AND THE QUEEN OF SHEBA) by The Ritchie Family (1977)
written by Jacques Morali and Henri Belolo
Another history lesson, this time about three bold female leaders from ancient Africa.

THE NIGHT THE LIGHTS WENT OUT by The Trammps (1977)
written by Allan Felder, Norman Harris, and Ron Tyson
About the blackout of July 13-14, 1977 that affected New York City.

And here are some great classic songs from before the disco era that were brought back in disco versions:

BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER by Linda Clifford (1979)
IF YOU COULD READ MY MIND by Viola Wills (1980)
CALIFORNIA DREAMIN' by Cynthia Woodard (1979)
WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS NOW by Disco Kids (1977)
ONLY THE STRONG SURVIVE by Billy Paul (1977)
MY CHERIE AMOUR (DISCO VERSION) by Triple "S" Connection (1979)
YOU ARE THE SUNSHINE OF MY LIFE by Soiree (1979)
CLOSE TO YOU by Soiree (1979)
AIN'T NO MOUNTAIN HIGH ENOUGH by Inner Life (1981)
TOUCH ME IN THE MORNING by Marlena Shaw (1979)
MAHOGANY by The Sylvers (1979)
STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN by The Wonder Band (1979)
SOMEBODY TO LOVE by the Salsoul Orchestra (1979)
HAVE A CIGAR by Rosebud (1977)
FOR YOUR LOVE by The Four Tops (1977)
96 TEARS by Thelma Houston (1981)
SUNNY by Boney M (1976)
LIGHTNIN' STRIKES by Salazar (1980)
LOVE POTION #9 by Rinder and Lewis (1979)
ELEANOR RIGBY by Wing and a Prayer Fife and Drum Corps. (1976)
DRIVE MY CAR by Gary Toms Empire (1975)
HIT THE ROAD, JACK by Lautrec (1979)
OUR DAY WILL COME by Esther Phillips (1979)
CAN'T HELP FALLING IN LOVE by Engelbert Humperdinck (1979)
STRANGERS IN THE NIGHT by Bette Midler (1976)
I'M GONNA LIVE TILL I DIE by Shobizz (1979)
BEGIN THE BEGUINE by Johnny Mathis (1979)
CHATTANOOGA CHOO CHOO by Tuxedo Junction (1977)
HOW HIGH THE MOON by Gloria Gaynor (1975)
MINNIE THE MOOCHER (DISCO VERSION) by Cab Calloway (1978)
GUANTANAMERA by the Salsoul Orchestra (1977)
YANKEE DOODLE DANDY by Paul Jabara (1977)
CLASSICALLY ELISE by Dino Solera and the Munich Machine (1976)
FLIGHT [OF THE BUMBLE BEE] '76 by Walter Murphy (1976)
A FIFTH OF BEETHOVEN by Walter Murphy (1976)
WARSAW CONCERTO by the Philadelphia Luv Ensemble (1979)
TUBULAR BELLS by Champ's Boys Orchestra (1976)
SUMMER PLACE '76 by Percy Faith (1976)
SABRE DANCE by Percy Faith (1975)
...and many others!

If disco "sucks" due to "vapidness" then does that mean that artists like the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, the Mamas and the Papas, Simon and Garfunkel, Stevie Wonder, the Carpenters, and Gordon Lightfoot -- where some of these lyrics came from -- "suck" too? And all those instrumental melodies by Beethoven, Rymsky-Korsakov, Aram Khachaturian, Mike Oldfield, and Percy Faith really "suck" just because a disco beat and funky bassline have been added? And the discofied themes from "Twilight Zone", "Star Trek", "Star Wars", "Battlestar Galactica", "Superman", "I Love Lucy", "James Bond", and "Pink Panther" also "suck"? All of them, or just some?

As you can see, there's much more to disco than fun but simple-minded lyrics about dancing all night long. Not that there's anything wrong with those kinds of songs either. It's understandable that someone who's enjoying their leisure time doesn't necessarily want to hear songs about strife, hardship, patriotism, and current events. Why don't disco-bashers similarly complain about the banality of some of those 1950s and early 1960s rock-and-roll songs which were clearly about dancing, having a good time, and falling in love?

Look beyond the anti-disco myths to discover the treasures. There's more to disco than BOOGIE OOGIE OOGIE, RING MY BELL, and DA YA THINK I'M SEXY.

Copyright ©2004-2005 K. A. Brook, all rights reserved.


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