Sunday, November 30, 2008

Disco Inferno

One of my favorite little bits of information that has come from reading the extended accounts of the post-election was this from Newsweek:

During one of the debate preps, the lights blew, flickering on and off like a strobe light from the 1970s disco craze. Obama stood behind the podium, quietly singing the song "Disco Inferno," last popular in the heyday of "Saturday Night Fever."
It's more than likely Barack Obama was humming, "Burn, Baby, Burn," the famous chorus from that song, itself a reshaping of the term used during the Watts riots in Los Angeles in 1965, itself stolen from the famous radio call by Magnificent Montague.

So we have an African-American candidate who is making a joke about disco, humming a song that itself has refigured a term twice from its original context in both political and popular culture terms. Perhaps in some deeper context, Barack Obama knew this relationship himself, but regardless it seems a remarkable journey for a phrase--from disc jockey to a future president humming it in a context that at once showed how long a cultural distance the country has traveled and how odd the twists of popular culture are.


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