Forty years ago, on July 12, 1979, what was supposed to be a wacky promotional stunt by shock-rock DJ Steve Dahl to sell tickets to a double-header White Sox baseball game at Chicago’s Comiskey Park turned ugly — when piles of vinyl records, many by artists of color, were destroyed as thousands of anti-disco rioters, 39 of whom were eventually arrested for disorderly conduct, stormed the field. Dahl has always vehemently denied that 98.7FM WLUP’s infamous “Disco Demolition Night” had any racist or homophobic undertones or intentions, arguing that “annexing this event to today’s advocacy is lazy academically and inappropriate geographically” and that what happened should be “viewed in the 1979 lens.”
But many people claim that Dahl was, at the very least, naïve and irresponsible to stage what Chic’s Nile Rodgers once likened to a “Nazi book-burning” in the tense, segregated climate of ‘70s Chicago. Chicago house music pioneer Vince Lawrence, who was only 15 years old in 1979 and was at Comiskey Park that crazy day working as an usher to buy his first synthesizer, is one of those people.
“Steve has used the words ‘revisionist history’ countless times. I say, OK, if you want to look at this through the lens of 1979, of the time, let’s do that,” Lawrence, who is black, tells Yahoo Entertainment. “At that time, you couldn’t be a black guy walking in the neighborhood of that baseball field after dark. It was widely known in the black community, and you can quote me on this: ‘Don’t have your black ass caught in Bridgeport after dark.’ Young guys knew they could catch a beatdown easily that way. That’s the lens I see it through. To be occasionally called ‘n****r’ to your face was part of that culture. So to me, it’s not surprising what happened.”