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Icons of Disco

Stars, style and glitz of the memorable ’70s era

  • Saturday Night Fever

    Summer Sensation

    En español | Singer-songwriter Donna Summer burst onto the scene in 1975 with the release of her sexually charged 17-minute  single “Love to Love You Baby.” A slew of other hits followed, including “Last Dance,” “Hot Stuff,” “Bad Girls” and “MacArthur Park.” Known as the Queen of Disco, Summer paved the way for other disco divas, such as Gloria Gaynor and Thelma Houston.

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  • Everett Collection

    Fever Pitch

    The 1977 movie Saturday Night Fever put disco on the map and in the mainstream. A 23-year-old John Travolta starred as a 19-year-old working-class Brooklyn man who lived for dancing at a local club. He made strutting in a tight, white three-piece suit a thing of beauty. The film was the first of a string of disco-inspired movies, including Thank God It’s Friday (1978), and Xanadu and Can’t Stop the Music (both 1980).

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  • Michael Putland/Getty Images

    Hit-Maker Brothers

    The Bee Gees — brothers Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb — were a respected  English pop group before they composed most of the music for Saturday Night Fever, virtually in one weekend and without having seen a script. The soundtrack encompassed hits such as  “Stayin’ Alive” and “Night Fever” and made the trio international stars, earning them five Grammys over two years. The Brothers Gibb are among the world’s best-selling musical artists of all time.

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  • Getty Images

    Everybody Dance

    The discotheques of the mid-1970s became gathering spots for dance lovers of all types. The most exclusive clubs, such as New York’s Studio 54, drew Keith Richards, Liza Minnelli, Chuck Berry, Elton John and Grace Jones, among myriad other A-list celebrities. Clubbers mastered dances such as the Hustle (and its many variations, including the Latin Hustle and New York Hustle), the Bump and the YMCA.

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  • Getty Images

    Ball of Mirrors

    Silvery mirrored balls rotated over dance club floors and became a symbol of the glittering era. Yolanda Baker of Omega National Products in Louisville, Ky., created the “disco ball” featured in Saturday Night Fever. Dubbed the last of the disco-ball makers, she’s been handcrafting them for nearly 50 years.

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  • Robert Deutschman

    AARP Offer: Remember the past, help shape the future

    Share your stories and help advocate for political support to protect your future. Join AARP to support living with dignity and purpose.

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  • Getty Images

    Fashion Forward

    The disco era brought lots of sparkle and shine to fashion. Dancers lit up the nights in gold lamé dresses; flowing, iridescent jumpsuits; platform shoes; tight hot pants; and colorful bell-bottoms

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  • CBS Archive/Getty Images

    It Takes a Village

    The Village People was a group created to appeal to disco’s gay audience, but quickly went mainstream. Its six members, who wore stereotypical fantasy attire sported by gay men in New York’s Greenwich Village, scored megahits with “Y.M.C.A,” “Macho Man” and “In the Navy.”

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  • Alamy

    International Flair

    The Swedish pop group ABBA —Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson  and Anni-Frid Lyngstad—became worldwide megastars with infectious hits such as “Dancing Queen” and “Take a Chance on Me.” Noted for their colorful and trendy costumes, the quartet even recorded a selection of their hits in Spanish.

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  • Harry Langdon/Getty Images

    On the Bandwagon

    Many artists of earlier fame embraced disco and recorded songs influenced by the genre. Among them: Barry Manilow (“Copacabana”), Barbra Streisand (“The Main Event”), Frankie Valli (“Swearin’ to God”) and Cher (“Take Me Home”). Even Ethel Merman got in the groove and recorded an album of her standards set to a disco beat.

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Video: 'Saturday Night Fever' 40th Anniversary Supercut - From John Travolta’s strut to his iconic pose, "Saturday Night Fever" has remained a cultural touchstone for 40 years.

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