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Hot Stuff: Disco and the Remaking of American Culture
Synopses & Reviews
In the 1970s, as the disco tsunami engulfed America, the once-innocent question, "Do you wanna dance?" became divisive, even explosive. What was it about this much-maligned music that made it such hot stuff? In this incisive history, Alice Echols captures the felt experience of the Disco Years--on dance floors both fabulous and tacky, at the movies, in the streets, and beneath the sheets.
Disco may have presented itself as shallow and disposable--the platforms, polyester, and plastic vibe of it all--but Echols shows that it was inseparable from the emergence of "gay macho," a rising black middle class, and a growing, if equivocal, openness about female sexuality. The disco scene carved out a haven for gay men who reclaimed their sexuality on dance floors where they had once been surveilled and harassed; it thrust black women onto center stage as some of the genre's most prominent stars; and it paved the way for the opening of Studio 54 and the viral popularity of the shoestring-budget Saturday Night Fever, a movie that challenged traditional notions of masculinity, even for heterosexuals.
As it provides a window onto the cultural milieu of the times, Hot Stuff never loses sight of the era's defining soundtrack, which propelled popular music into new sonic territory, influencing everything from rap and rock to techno and trance. Throughout, Echols spotlights the work of precursors James Brown and Isaac Hayes, dazzling divas Donna Summer and the women of Labelle, and some of disco's lesser known but no less illustrious performers such as Sylvester. After turning the final page of this fascinating account of the music you thought you hated but can't stop dancing to, you can rest assured that you'll never say "disco sucks" again.
Book News Annotation:
In this revisionist history of the 1970s, Echols (American Studies and History, Rutgers University) looks at the history of disco as a musical style and as a social phenomenon that produced lasting cultural change. The book shows how disco was the soundtrack for an era that saw a growing black middle class, the movement of huge numbers of women into the workplace, and the refusal of gay men and lesbians to continue living in the shadows. Paying equal attention to the development of disco music itself and to the social changes that disco reflected and promoted, Echols' lively book will appeal to any reader interested in--or who lived through--the Disco Era. Annotation ©2010 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Disco thumps back to life in this pulsating exploration of the culture and politics of the glitterball world.
Alice Echols reveals the ways in which disco transformed popular music, propelling it into new sonic territory and influencing rap, techno, and trance. She probes the complex relationship between disco and the era's major movements: gay liberation, feminism, and African American rights. You won't say "disco sucks" as disco thumps back to life in this pulsating look at the culture and politics that gave rise to the music.
"Echols's love of music, her acumen about popular culture, and her gifts as a leading cultural historian come together in this remarkable book. The book is fascinating, carried along by prose that is as sleek and slinky as its subject."--Christine Stansell, author of American Moderns
"Hot Stuff describes the book as well as its subject: a thoughtful and sophisticated treatment of a significant but much-maligned music."--Tim Taylor, professor, Departments of Ethnomusicology and Musicology, UCLA
"Echols aims for--and thoroughly achieves--a range of higher cultural insights. . . . Using encyclopedic knowledge of the eras' biggest stars, she shows how all sorts of musical disco styles played a 'central role' in broadening the contours of 'blackness, femininity, and male homosexuality' in America. . . . Revelatory."--Publishers Weekly
"Without question, Alice Echols is one of America's best cultural critics working the beat between popular and academic cultures. With characteristic stylistic verve and scholarly acumen, Echols trolls the edges of our culture's underbelly to discern its central place in politics and economics. In Hot Stuff, she finds disco to be crucial for understanding what happened in 1970s America. Thus invariably, Echols provides a surprising take on familiar scenes by pointing out potholes and pitfalls of late twentieth-century American culture, exploring regions of experience previously overlooked or discounted. Her deep immersion in the subjects of her research, thorough oral histories, and extensive archival investigation flesh out her absolutely original critical insights."--Paula Rabinowitz, author of Black & White & Noir
About the Author
Alice Echols is a professor of American studies and history at Rutgers University. A former disco deejay, she is the author of the acclaimed biography of Janis Joplin, Scars of Sweet Paradise. She lives in Highland Park, New Jersey.
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Arts and Entertainment » Music » Genres and Styles » Dance