Disco music may have fallen from mainstream favor in 1979 – its rapid decline that year fueled by often racist cries of “disco sucks” and by a crate full of disco records being blown up between games at a baseball doubleheader at Comiskey Park in Chicago.
But the four-on-the-floor grooves associated with the genre managed to survive.
They morphed into related styles known as “house music,” or simply “dance music” and went underground at dance clubs, both gay and straight, around the world.
Few singers have been more responsible for the ongoing international popularity of dance music than Jeanie Tracy.
The veteran Oakland-based vocalist has reigned as one of the queens of dance music since the dawn of the present century, having teamed up first with the American DJ duo known as Rosabel, then with the Brazilian DJ duo Altar.
Two of Tracy’s records with Rosabel – “The Power” in 2000 and “Cha Cha Heels” in 2004 – topped Billboard magazine’s Dance Club Songs chart. “Party People” with Altar did the same in 2007, followed by two other tunes that peaked at No. 7.
“Andale,” her latest single with Altar, debuted at No. 5 on iTunes’ Dance Songs chart upon its release last month.
Not bad for someone who began her recording career 46 years ago in Fresno!
Tracy, born in Jasper, Texas, first attracted wide attention in 1979 when joining Martha Wash and Izora Rhodes – then known as the Two Tons of Fun, later as the Weathergirls – as a backup singer for cross-dressing San Francisco disco singer, Sylvester.
“They were the tons, and I was the fun,” she joked with this writer at the East Oakland home she shares with her husband.
Just last week, Tracy appeared in New Orleans for the eleventh year in a row at Southern Decadence, a week-long gay festival where she was crowned “Queen of Decadence” in 2013.
“I have a huge gay following, and I’m happy about it,” Tracy said. “They’ve supported my career over all the years I’ve been in music since Sylvester.”
She added that she’s also had a substantial Latino following since the success of “Cha Cha Heels.”
Besides making records under her own name, she has worked with Marin County songwriter-producer Narada Michael Walden over the past 30 years recording demos and doing background vocals for some of the biggest names in the business – including Mariah Carey, Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross and Whitney Houston.
She also has recorded with Celine Dion, Michael Jackson, Curtis Mayfield, Carlos Santana, Rod Stewart, Barbra Streisand and many others.
“I’ve had a fabulous, wonderful journey,” Tracy said of her multifaceted career. “I just want to make people feel happy with my music.”
“Disco didn’t die,” she said, “because I’m still working.”