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How Chicago built house music from the ashes of disco

With a disco sample and a drum machine, house music took over the globe.

On July 12, 1979, in the middle of a packed baseball stadium in Chicago, an event happened that would go down in history. It had nothing to do with the baseball game that was about to start and everything to do with a disgruntled rock radio DJ named Steve Dahl, a man who hated disco. It was Disco Demolition night, a radio promotion Dahl dreamed up where he encouraged fans to bring disco records to the game so he could blow them up in center field.

It worked. The baseball stadium, which typically held around 40,000 spectators, was filled to the brim. After Dahl’s ceremonious explosion, thousands of fans rushed the field, inciting a riot. It goes without saying that the baseball game never happened.

In the weeks following, newspapers around the country proclaimed the death of disco. But a young group of DJs and amateur music producers in Chicago had other plans. Over the next few years, these DJs reinvented disco by playing those records over hard-hitting electronic drum machines. They called it house music, and within a decade this new genre had traveled the globe.

The video above dives into the history of the classic house track “Ride on Time” and how its three main ingredients — a disco sample, drum sound, and uptempo piano — help tell the origin story of house music.

You can find this video and all of Vox’s videos on YouTube. And if you’re interested in supporting our video journalism, you can become a member of the Vox Video Lab on YouTube.

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