Dance

On This Day in Billboard Dance History: Groove Was in the Heart, With Deee-Lite's Signature Hit

Deee-Lite
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Deee-Lite

While the final product was singular, it took an amalgamation of fairly disparate samples to create the 1990 dance classic "Groove Is In the Heart."

Hitting No. 1 on Billboard's Dance Club Songs chart on September 3, 1990, the song was a funky, undeniable assemblage of parts adopted from jazz fusion king Herbie Hancock (with the bass taken from his 1966 track "Bring Down the Birds"), soul singer and guitarist Vernon Burch (who contributed the drums from his 1979 funk classic "Get Up"), conga drummer Ray Barretto, a vocal clip of Eva Gabor lifted from Green Acres and a quartet of other sampled elements.

Layered up with skittering beats, saxophone from legendary player Maceo Parker, cartoonishly delicious vocals from Parliament Funkadelic bassist Bootsy Collins, a slicker-than-slick verse courtesy of Q-Tip, sassy lead vocals from the group's Lady Miss Kier and a now iconic slide whistle, in total the wonderfully crowded track was nothing if not a party.

And in fact, it soundtracked many such festive occasions before blowing up on terrestrial radio. The trio behind the track, Deee-Lite, was a fixture of the late '80s New York club scene, with its members, Lady Miss Kier, Supa DJ Dmitry and Towa Tei, performing "Groove Is in the Heart" around NY clubland before the track's 1990 release as the lead single from the group's debut album, World Clique.

"We were all going to school at some point and we all dropped out," Lady Miss Kier said in a 1990 interview, "and I guess we got hooked up in the club scene, because it was fun."

Both DJs, Supa DJ Dmitry and Towa Tei produced the track, with the fashion designer and one time go-go dancer Lady Miss Kier adding a strong dose of playful yet self-assured (and fantastically dressed) diva power. Naming themselves after the pleasures of the club scene and life itself, Deee-Lite called their music not only an amalgamation of their roots -- Dmitry was from former Soviet Union, Towa Tei from Japan and Miss Lady Kier from Ohio -- but an homage to the many cultures represented in the club scene.

For the group, the success of "Groove Is in the Heart" was measured by whether or not their favorite DJs in the scene played the song out. They all did.

While two additional LPs followed in 1992 and 1994, World Clique would remain Deee-Lite's most successful album, largely on the power of "Groove is In the Heart." (The track was the group's first of six Dance Club Songs No. 1s, and their longest-running on the chart.) With its fusion of funk, ebullient beats and world rhythms perking up any room in which it was played, the song peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100, while also hitting the top 10 in Canada and throughout Europe, first gaining traction in clubs before becoming an essential song of the summer in 1990.

Earning heavy rotation on MTV, the song's popularity was buoyed by its brightly colored dance party of a video. Inspired by '60s psychedelia, the group -- along with Collins, Q-Tip and a horde of Soul Train style dancers -- appear outfitted in sequins and paisley. And yet for all of its '60s influence, for all of us '90s kids who have the video embedded into our frontal lobes, the clip still deeply evokes the feeling of that decade. Thirty years later, the high-vibe messaging of peace, celebration and world embedded into the music remains timely.

"Well I think dance music is very important, it can be very important," Miss Lady Kier said in a 1990 interview. "Dance has been around from the beginning of time, as music has been. It's a way to bring people together and celebrate dreams of better days and better communication through people. We think music can be an international language. It is. And by dancing, that's a way to communicate as well."

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