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November 24, 2019

The making of The Hues Corporation's "Rock The Boat"

Marc Myers' Wall Street Journal story relates how this wonderful song, which helped launch the disco era, came into being in 1974; excerpts from a group interview with the song's writer, producer, pianist, and Hues Corporation singer H. Ann Kelley follow.

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Forty years ago this spring, disco emerged as a national sensation.

Urban clubs, FM radio, record companies and young adults all began to embrace elaborately produced, beat-heavy recordings, unleashing a dance craze that would last roughly six years.

While the first pure disco recording has long been debated, one of the earliest was the Hues Corporation's "Rock the Boat," which initially appeared on the group's first album... in the spring of 1973 and became a No. 1 hit single in May 1974.

The song's soulful vocals, churning rhythm, and glittery brass and strings advanced the O'Jays' "Love Train," and predated MFSB's "The Sound of Philadelphia."

At the heart of "Rock the Boat" was a rumba-like beat and light-reggae bass line — an unusual combination that the song's arranger first heard on a Caribbean vacation.

Initially, "Rock the Boat" was nearly passed over by the music industry — twice.

Inspired by "Row, Row, Row Your Boat," the song needed a stronger arrangement before RCA would record it and a more powerful remix to tease out its bouncy beat before radio would play it.

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November 24, 2019 at 02:01 PM | Permalink


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