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Disco is an up-tempo style of dance music that originated in the early 1970s, mainly from funk popular with black audiences in large US cities, and derives its name from the French word "discotheque". Like all such musical genres, defining a single point of its development is very, very difficult, as many elements of disco appear on earlier records (such as the 1971 theme from the movie "Shaft" by Isaac Hayes), on balance it can be said that first true disco songs were released in 1973. One of the earliest was "The Love I Lost" by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes. Initially, most disco songs catered to a nightclub/dancing audience only, rather than general audiences such as radio listeners. 1975 was the year when disco really took off, with hit songs like "The Hustle" and "Love To Love You Baby" reaching the mainstream. Disco's popularity peaked in 1978 and the first half of 1979, driven in part by the late-1977 film "Saturday Night Fever".

Instruments commonly used by disco musicians included the rhythm guitar, bass, strings, string synth (a type of organ), trumpet, saxophone, trombone, piano, and drums (sometimes using an auxiliary percussionist as well as somebody on a drum kit). Most disco songs have a steady four-on-the-floor beat (sometimes using a 16-beat patern on the hi-hat cymbal, or an eight-beat pattern with an open hi-hat on the "off" beat) and a heavy, syncopated bassline. Disco also had a characteristic electric guitar sound (somebody who plays electric guitar should explain the effect used). Some use overly repetitious and simplistic melodies and rhythms with dull or silly lyrics while others are carefully crafted works of art.

Among the most popular disco artists of the 1970s were Chic, Sister Sledge, Michael Jackson, Donna Summer, Gloria Gaynor, Boney M, The Village People, K.C. and the Sunshine Band, Voyage, Salsoul Orchestra, The Trammps, and Barry White. Many rock artists, from The Eagles to The Rolling Stones, discofied some of their songs.

Disco music diverged from the self-composed and peformed rock of the 1960's, seeing a return (though not universally) to the influence of producers who hired session musicians to produce hits for different artists whose role was purely to sing and market the songs. Top disco music producers included Patrick Adams, Alec Costandinos, Nile Rodgers, Bernard Edwards, Quincy Jones, François Kevorkian, Meco Monardo, Vincent Montana, Greg Diamond, Giorgio Moroder, Tom Moulton, and Vincent Montana Jr.

In the early 1980s, George Benson, Patrice Rushen, Brothers Johnson, Commodores, The S.O.S. Band, and many other talented artists created timeless disco classics. After 1980, however, disco music morphed into other forms, including house and Hi-NRG, and much of the general public became disinterested in disco.

In the 1990s a revival of the original disco style began and is exemplified by Jamiroquai's 1996 release "Cosmic Girl" and a number of attempts by artists like Cher and The Spice Girls.