69 of the Best Disco Songs of All Time, for Pride

A nice sampling of a dance-music genre that never really died.

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New York’s Studio 54 in 1978 Photo: Richard Drew (AP)

Last week, Billboard published a list of the top disco songs of all time, as chosen by one of the genre’s great architects, producer/songwriter/performer Giorgio Moroder. Moroder is probably best known for this career- and genre-defining work alongside Donna Summer, though his resume goes on much longer both within disco (see: his solo releases like “The Chase” and “From Here to Eternity,” which are classics in their own right) and beyond (the Top Gun and Flashdance soundtracks).

If anyone knows disco from both sides now, it’s Moroder, which is why the list was...odd. Firstly, it was 34 songs (was not rounding the number a decision made with SEO in mind?). Secondly, its Top 6 is entirely Donna Summer songs that he collaborated on, which on one hand is fair and on the other is like, brag much? Thirdly, there are songs on it that strike me as not disco, or at least not nearly the best representation of it within such a limited number of the genre’s offerings. “Super Freak?” “1999?” “Billie Jean?”

Armed with the confidence that I could do better than a man who made history several times over, I came up with my own rough canon of the 69 greatest disco songs, doubling his number and adding one to maximize niceness. That this happens during Pride month is no coincidence for the historically gay, Black genre. I’ve attempted to balance my own taste with objectively important songs in terms of popularity and endurance, and I made a particular effort to include strong examples of offshoot genres like Italo disco, hi-NRG, and so-called “boogie,” the analog synth-heavy strain which the genre morphed into in the early ‘80s that was particularly present on R&B radio.

I gave myself some parameters: No songs were eligible after 1985, which mitigated any confusion as to whether something could also qualify as disco if it were really house music. I also am including only one track from each primary artist (though people like Luther Vandross show up multiple times via production work). I’d have Donna Summer multiple times on my list, too (not to mention Stephanie Mills, Chic, Sylvester, Evelyn “Champagne” King, Shalamar, and more), but I’d rather cover more dancefloor ground than commit to any corner.

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