During the summer of 1973 Cameroon-born saxophonist Manu Dibango's Soul Makossa became the first "disco" record to enter the top 40 of Billboard's Hot 100 singles chart (peaking at #33). A song with African rhythms and tribal incantations ("ma-ma-ma-sa, ma-ma-ma-kosa"), its mainstream success was a bit of surprise. Since then a long list of artists have sampled parts of the song, the most popular being Michael Jackson's Wanna be Starting Somethin' (1982) and Rihanna's Don't Stop the Music (2007).
A year passed before disco songs began appearing regularly on top-40 radio playlists. For the most part they had a more accessible "pop" feel than Makossa - Gloria Gaynor's Never Can Say Goodbye; Rock the Boat by Hues Corporation; KC & the Sunshine Band's That's the Way I Like It; and Vicki Sue Robinson's Turn the Beat Around. Billboard published its first "Disco Action" chart in autumn 1974.
These mainstream dance hits were popular in gay clubs as well, but there was a list of "parallel" hits that never made it beyond gay circles, making them even more cherished - songs like Cocomotion, Spank, Puff of Smoke, I Need a Man, Hot Shot, and Hold on to My Love.
Click here for a more in-depth account of Soul Makossa and its place in the disco-dancing pantheon.