16.8.09

D18


The Michael Zager Band is a shimmering example of what I'm now dubbing (not uniquely) "white boy disco."

One of the interesting, possibly funny aspects of disco is how it, like various forms of jazz, was―and continues to be―racially segregated to an extent. (I'm not attempting to begin some sort of race argument here―I'm merely shedding light on a trend, an observation.) "Black" disco tends to have a heavier, funkier edge to it, and this rawness isn't unexpected―the genre was created by African-Americans who came from R&B and soul backgrounds after all. "White" disco tends to be of the, may I, cheesier variety. The tunes have a lot more treble going for them, goof around with more electronics and synths, and seem to place great importance on The Hook rather than The Vibe.

Michael Zager―defintiely a white boy (he looks sort of like Phil Collins)―epitomizes this sort of "white" disco. He worked with numerous award-winning blacks in the 70s and 80s ( Whitney Houston, Cissy Houston, Gladys Knight), but, through all his interracial activity somehow maintained this really... well, white aesthetic. The songs he wrote, recorded, produced, and performed with his own outfits (the Michael Zager band and the Afro-Cuban Band) are pretty glitzy, pretty schlocky. That said, they are indeed infectious. "Let's All Chant" is a classic by all accounts―a hook like that doesn't come along too often. (Oh, and a wonderful video doesn't either!)

White musicians―as usual―copped an African-American form of dance music and conformed it to their lighter sensibilities. Think Dave Brubeck's "Take Five" here...

While Zager is indeed a spectacular musician who has been widely lauded in both the creative and commercial worlds (he did TV commercials and soundtracks, for example), he remains an illustration of how the American majority swipes what the marginalized minorities concoct and formulates it into their own creation. Jam out... but with a little hesitation, maybe.

Michael Zager Band - Let's All Chant (12" Version)

Michael Zager Band - Music Fever


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