Boogie Wonderland

Album: I Am (1979)
Charted: 4 6
  • This is one of the more complex and misinterpreted songs of the disco era. Written by Jon Lind and Allee Willis, it was inspired by the movie Looking For Mr. Goodbar, which stars Diane Keaton as a lost soul who goes to clubs every night to dance away her misery.

    In a Songfacts interview with Willis, she explained: "When I saw Mr. Goodbar, I got kind of fascinated with people who did go to clubs every night, whose life was kind of falling apart, but they lived for the night life, though it didn't seem to be advancing them as humans in the end. So if you really look at the lyrics of 'Boogie Wonderland,' unlike 'September,' it's not a happy song at all. It's really about someone on the brink of self destruction who goes to these clubs to try and find more, but is at least aware of the fact that if there's something like true love, that is something that could kind of drag them out of the abyss.

    So for instance, the first verse is:

    Midnight creeps so slowly into hearts of men who need more than they get
    Daylight deals a bad hand to a women who's laid too many bets
    The mirror looks you in the face and says, 'uh-uh baby, it don't work'
    You say your prayers, though you don't care, you dance to shake the hurt

    And then on this demo, it went right into the chorus, where with Earth, Wind & Fire it's more of a feel thing, and they do all the verses before they get to the chorus. And then the chorus is:

    All the love in the world can't be gone
    All the need to be loved can't be wrong
    All the records are playing
    And my heart keeps saying 'Boogie Wonderland'

    So 'Boogie Wonderland' for us was this state of mind that you entered when you were around music and when you danced, but hopefully it was an aware enough state of mind that you would want to feel as good during the day as you did at night."
  • The Emotions provided the female vocals on this song, which is credited to Earth Wind & Fire with The Emotions. The Emotions were a female vocal trio from Chicago: the sisters Wanda, Sheila and Jeanette Hutchinson. Maurice White had previously worked with them and produced their 1977 #1 single "Best Of My Love."
  • Like the Commodores, Earth, Wind & Fire was a funk/soul band that adapted to disco without compromising their sound. Allee Willis told us: "At that time, disco was all you heard. And it was very positive-sounding stuff. So I think their concern was more that they do it very distinctively. And 'Boogie Wonderland' is a very different kind of disco song. It's much more heavily orchestrated, chord structure's different, lyrically it's certainly different. So I think they were happy to have something that could pass in that genre, but really wasn't of that genre."
  • Talking about the title, Allee Willis said in her Songfacts interview: "It was 1978, and every song had 'boogie' in the title. And I was always someone who really wanted to be different. I was a journalism major in college, and I didn't like song lyrics that didn't hold up as kind of stories if you were to just happen to read them and didn't hear the music. And the series of 'boogie' songs that were coming out lyrically were especially stupid to me, even though I loved and still love disco music more than any music that ever existed. So I really wanted to write a disco song, but I wanted it lyrically to be almost in a different genre than what the standard was. So we kept thinking of other ways that we could use the word 'boogie' other than just to dance."
  • Earth, Wind & Fire came very close to passing on this song. Willis explains: "When Jon and I took that to Maurice, he didn't take it for Earth, Wind & Fire. He was producing another group that was called Curtis The Brothers, and Earth, Wind & Fire cut the track, so it's the exact track that you're hearing on the Earth, Wind & Fire record, but someone else was singing it. And Jon and I were beside ourselves, because Earth, Wind & Fire were so cool, and this other group was an unknown group who did an OK job, but we knew what Maurice White was going to sound like singing the lead. So we spent quite a few nerve wracking weeks as we would beg him to keep the song for himself. And then finally he did. And then it was out in like two weeks, and that was it."
  • This appears in the movies Roller Boogie, Madagascar and Happy Feet. It's also used in Caddyshack where it plays at the club dinner.
  • An instrumental version won the 1979 Grammy Award for Best Rhythm & Blues Performance. That was the only year a disco category was offered: Best Disco Recording. "Boogie Wonderland" was nominated, but lost to "I Will Survive."

Comments: 7

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyPer: {12-25-2019}
    Allee Willis, songwriter who was nominated for an Emmy Award for writing the theme song to 'Friends', “I’ll Be There for You", passed away at the age of 72 on December 24th, 2019 in a Los Angeles-area hospital...
    She worked with Earth, Wind & Fire frequently, co-writing their hits including “September", “Boogie Wonderland"*, and “In the Stone.” Willis won two Grammy Awards, one for co-writing the music and lyrics for the stage adaptation of “The Color Purple,” and the other for her work for the “Beverly Hills Cop” soundtrack, for which she co-wrote the Pointer Sisters’ “Neutron Dance” and Patti LaBelle’s “Stir it Up.” Her other notable songwriting credits include the Pet Shop Boys’ “What Have I Done to Deserve This” and Bonnie Raitt’s “Got You on My Mind.” She was a 2018 inductee to the Songwriters Hall of Fame...
    May she R.I.P.
    * On July 8th, 1979 "Boogie Wonderland" by Earth, Wind, & Fire peaked at #6 {for 2 weeks} on Billboard's Top 100 chart...
    And on June 10th, 1979 it reached #2 {for 5 weeks} on Billboard's Hot Soul Singles chart, the five weeks it was at #2, the #1 record for those five weeks was "Ring My Bell" by Anita Ward...
  • Andy from Little RockEW&F: Greatest R&B group of all time! Could do no wrong. Took this relatively simple song, gave it a groove and took it to the top of the charts. I so miss Maurice White. For those of you who don't know EWF well, please give a listen to: September, When The Love Is Gone, Fantasy, Shining Star, etc.
  • Babbling Babette from Tulsa OkAbsolutely wild about this song. It's in my Big Mama's record collection & she's still an EWF fan today. I love to dance to this in my apartment but my landlord says I'm cracking the floorboards & the old crab downstairs says I'm making her ceiling crack. But I love to dance to this song!! I never did know the lyrics until songfacts up them up. I realize now that the lyrics are pretty sobering and down but I still love the melody anyways. I just love dancing to this song I guess I have that Restless Legs Syndrome!
  • Arnetia from Philadelphia, PaI love this song! The happy feet version was okay but this one is so much better. This song is so deep and true in it's own way. These are the kind of songs I love- even if you don't hear a lot of it.
  • Matthew from Milford, MaUgh, there aren't many songs by Earth, Wind & Fire on this site...
  • Doug from Oakland, CaThe lyrics are deep,the beat slamming and the Emotions and EWF the perfect combination.
    I LOVE this tune.
  • Krista from Elyria, OhThis was on Happy Feet! I hated the scene when Gloria sang this with all my heart! I HATE IT!
see more comments

Randy HouserSongwriter Interviews

The "How Country Feels" singer talks Skynyrd and songwriting.

Dan ReedSongwriter Interviews

Dan cracked the Top 40 with "Ritual," then went to India and spent 2 hours with the Dalai Lama.

Country Song TitlesFact or Fiction

Country songs with titles so bizarre they can't possibly be real... or can they?

Let Me Be Your Teddy Bear: Teddy Bears and Teddy Boys in SongsSong Writing

Elvis, Little Richard and Cheryl Cole have all sung about Teddy Bears, but there is also a terrifying Teddy song from 1932 and a touching trucker Teddy tune from 1976.

Subversive Songs Used To SellSong Writing

Songs about drugs, revolution and greed that have been used in commercials for sneakers, jeans, fast food, cruises and cars.

Loudon Wainwright IIISongwriter Interviews

"Dead Skunk" became a stinker for Loudon when he felt pressure to make another hit - his latest songs deal with mortality, his son Rufus, and picking up poop.