5 Notable Latino Contributions to Disco Music

With the passing of disco queen Donna Summer last week, disco is definitely on our minds. These days when we hear disco we tend to think cheesy cover bands, but true disco evolved in basement parties and underground clubs, entertaining those who didn’t like the songs in mainstream dancehalls.

Did you know that Latinos contributed a lot to the disco scene? Latino musicians developed the sounds of boogaloo, Latin soul and yes, salsa with the help of American club music. Don't believe us? Listen to these tracks and hear it for yourself.

1. Salsation by David Shire

"Salsation" by David Shire

The competition scene from Saturday Night Fever is the perfect example of how these communities and music genres came together. John Travolta's character is ready to sweep the contest with the moves he's been practicing for weeks only to have his glory (and prize money) snatched by a Puerto Rican couple whose dance moves light up the floor. Their routine is performed to “Salsation,” David Shire's mambo-infused disco hit. 

2. Heaven Knows by Donna Summer

"Heaven Knows" by Donna Summer

This song by the queen herself is a sweet, danceable love song that gets its groove from some of the percussion instruments imported by Latino immigrants.

3. El Cantante by Hector Lavoe

"El Cantante" by Hector Lavoe

This mega-hit performed by Hector Lavoe floats on lush strings, the hallmark of disco. Do your iPod a favor and get the extended version to hear all the play between straightforward salsa and darker orchestral sounds.

4. Sin Poderte Hablar by Willie Colon

"Sin Poderte Hablar" by Willie Colon

Compositor Willie Colon was accused of overproducing his 1979 album “Solo,” but we love the (slightly cheesy) strings and flutes. Willie knows his main job is to get people on to the floor – the lighter stuff is balanced out with handclaps and familiar salsa percussion, something un poco más duro.

5. Soul Cha-Cha by Van McCoy

"Soul Cha-Cha" by Van McCoy

The guy who brought us “The Hustle” could be the only one to bring us this awkward, but sort-of-hilarious track starring a chatty, oversexed La Lupe knockoff (“Damelo! Que te necesito ahora!) No habla espanol? Never fear! The singers call out “one, two, cha cha cha” in case you get lost. (Hah!)