The Godfather of House Music, Frankie Knuckles, dead at 59
Although we may wish that this was another internet hoax falsely decrying the death of a legend, it isn’t so. Preliminary reports indicate that he most likely died from complications resulting from diabetes on Monday, March 31.
In the music business people often have lengthy and heated debates about who is the most influential or who really created each specific genre, subgenre but in this instance everyone in the world and on the internet agree on the Godfather. Knuckles was an innovator that spawned the behemoth now known as electronic dance music, or EDM for short.
In 2005, Knuckles was inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame for his achievements.
In the beginning Knuckles was mentored by friend and garage house pioneer Larry Levan. Though born in the Bronx, Knuckles called Chicago his home starting in the 80s, and the Windy City called him its own.
Knuckles and Levans were turning tables at the one of the most influential clubs in New York when an opportunity knocked.
A mutual friend, Robert Williams, was opening a club called the Warehouse. It’s believed he coined the name of the music genre. He is widely recognized and respected for his era at the Warehouse.DJ Frankie Knuckles plays at the Def Mix 20th Anniversary Weekender at Turnmills nightclub on May 6, 2007 in London, England. The Weekender sees the start of the world tour to celebrate 20 years of the legendary New York based House music label with DJs Satoshi Tomiie, Hector Romero, David Morales and Danny Rampling set to play during the tour.
Frankie’s visionary abilities as a producer allowed him to push the envelope. At the same time Steve Dahl was burning disco records in effigy, he was remixing disco hits into dance music hits.
Knuckles performed at the Warehouse from 1977-82, before opening his own venture, Power Plant, from 1883-87. After all that, he started extensively touring Europe.
Knuckles’ marathon sets often included edits that knew no boundaries encompassing everything from disco to R&B, and punk to Euro disco. Knuckles’ ability to run the gamut helped lay the initial groundwork for electronic music of today’s generation and not just some, but quintessentially, all of it.
Knuckles may have been known mostly as a dis jockey. He was also a skilled producer, tastemaker, and scout for noticing talent. Europe’s blossoming rave scene in the late 80’s and early 90’s was making a star out of Knuckles and many of his peers in the scene.
As a pioneer and Grammy award winner, Knuckles worked with greats in popular music such as Luther Vandross, Michael Jackson and Toni Braxton – just to name a few. The man was always experimenting, remixing and pushing the limits in the name of musical exploration and innovation.
Knuckles was extremely proud of Chicago’s growing recognition of contemporary dance music artists like Paul Oakenfold, and Daft Pun.
Knuckles once stated “I’m not the kind of person that lives for fame and glory. If I’ve got a nice clean home and can put a meal on my table and entertain my friends, I’m fine. I don’t need to see my face plastered everywhere.
The people I meet all around the world look at Chicago and the house scene with a new romanticism. They recognize more than ever that Chicago is the core of where it all began.”
In 2004, then state senator Barack Obama declared August 25 Frankie Knuckles Day and the block where Jefferson and Madison Street meet Jackson Boulevard – the site where the Warehouse once stood – was renamed Honorary Frankie Knuckles Way.
Story by Tee Onek (Photos by Claire Greenway/Getty Images)