Writer(s): Van McCoy (see lyrics here)
First Charted: April 19, 1975
Peak: 11 US, 11 CB, 11 HR, 11 RR, 2 AC, 11 RB, 3 UK, 12 CN, 9 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)
Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 0.25 UK, 10.0 world (includes US + UK)
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 1.0 radio, 63.6 video, 17.06 streaming
Click on award for more details.
About the Song:
“The Hustle” was a dance before it was a song. Puerto Rican teens in the South Bronx, many from a motorcycle gang, invented the dance. It went through various versions and names and gained popularity in New York clubs. The Fatback Band tried to capitalize on it in 1975 with “Spanish Hustle” and James Brown released “Hustle!!! (Dead on It).” SG However it was Van McCoy who found the greatest success.
He was a “music industry lifer” SG from Washington, DC. who was playing piano by age four and writing songs at 12. He dropped out of school as a teen, moved to Philadelphia, and started a label called Rockin’ Records with his uncle. FB In the early ‘60s, he worked as a staff songwriter with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. He wrote minor hits for Gladys Knight & the Pips and Ruby & the Romantics and came close to the top 10 with Barbara Lewis’ 1965 “Baby I’m Yours” and the Presidents’ “5-10-15-20 (25 Years of Love” from 1970. He put together Peaches & Herb and arranged songs for the Stylistics. SG
In 1975, McCoy released Disco Baby, a mostly instrumental and “fairly forgettable collection of slickster funk” SG which included lackuster covers of the Ohio Players’ “Fire” and the Average White Band’s “Pick Up the Pieces.” However, the album also included “The Hustle.” McCoy saw people doing the dance at a New York club called Adam’s Apple and wrote and recorded “The Hustle” with an hour of studio time left over. SG
The song “didn’t have the pulsing stomp or the vocal operatics” SG that would come with later disco hits. It did, however, feature a “tense bassline… the glimmers of guitar, the bass-drum kick,” SG and the “cooling session vocalists” SG interjecting the command to “do the hustle” into an otherwise instrumental song. The Grammy winner for Best Pop Instrumental became a “landmark in the disco movement, and remains one of the records most closely associated with the 1970s dance craze.” JA
First posted 10/23/2022.