When Diana Ross approached Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards to write her 1980 album, Diana, she had a simple goal: to have fun. She was in her mid-thirties, already a legend. Rodgers and Edwards had enjoyed a string of hits with Chic—whose 1979 release Risqué was a major album—and as the musical backbone of Sister Sledge (“We Are Family,” “He’s the Greatest Dancer”). But for as polished as they were—how subtly they managed to aggregate the rhythmic grittiness of funk into the Black bourgeois professionalism of Ross’ Motown—they were also playful in ways that never felt cartoonish or put-on. Sophisticated, yes. But also fun. For as well-known as the music is—“Upside Down” was Ross’ first No. 1 single in four years, and “I’m Coming Out” is arguably her best-known song—Diana didn’t have an easy birth. The cultural backlash to disco had come to a head less than a year earlier, when about 50,000 people showed up at a baseball stadium in Chicago to destroy disco albums in an event that devolved into a riot. They claimed to hate the music, but given how Black and gay it was, you wonder if it wasn’t something else. (And given how bloated and indistinct corporate rock had gotten by the late 1970s, you wonder if that same something had prevented them from hearing Chic as one of the most rhythmically interesting guitar-based bands outside punk at the time.) That disco backlash had Ross worried. Rodgers later said the singer had come to him on the verge of tears, claiming a prominent radio DJ had told her the music would end her career. And while Ross had been the one to bring Rodgers and Edwards on to begin with, she and others at Motown thought the original Diana recordings obscured the character of her voice. So they remixed it significantly—a discrepancy listeners can explore through the original Chic mixes, included on the expanded edition. The famous story about “I’m Coming Out,” meanwhile, is that Rodgers saw a host of men dressed in Ross drag at a Manhattan bar, and ran out to call Edwards on the phone. I’m coming out, he said—like a gay version of James Brown singing “Say it Loud - I’m Black and I’m Proud.” A good start.

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