Frankie Knuckles – The Grandfather of House Music
Born on January 18th, 1955, Frankie Knuckles was one of the most influential person’s in the Dance Music industry in the last decade. Frankie was considered to be the pioneer DJ of house music. He started out as a DJ for the Manhattan Club at the Gallery, which was also known as an underground gay disco. in 1977, he became the DJ at the Warehouse Club in Chicago and begun to experiment with his own sound, realizing that he would be the one to usher in a new era of Dance Music.
Frankie Knuckles Secret Fanbase
The Paradise Club and the Warehouse club, both frequented by Frankie Knuckle’s impressive mix sets, would eventually become important landmarks in gay history, as they provided a safe place for black and Hispanic men to meet, which meant that Frankie had a loyal fan base who would promote his music and name outside the gay community, and eventually give him the wide name recognition that he deserved.
The Death of Disco
July 12th, 1979, was a landmark day in the Music industry. American radio host Steve Dahl, blew up an entire box full of disco records right in the middle of Chicago’s baseball stadium, Comiskey Park. Apparently, he was disgruntled at the entire ‘disco’ thing, and wanted it to stop. Unfortunately, the record companies listened. They were spooked so much that something like this could happen anywhere, and refused to sign anymore disco artists, including the creation of any new disco records.
“I witnessed that caper that Steve Dahl pulled,” recalled Knuckles. “It scared the record companies, and they stopped signing disco artists and making disco records. So we created our own thing in Chicago to fill that gap.”
Where Was House Music Born?
The Warehouse nightclub. This was where house music was born. Originally cater to mostly gay black and gay Latino men, however, after the death of disco in 1979-1980, The Warehouse became much more popular. After it began to attract a more Caucasian and European crowd, Frankie Knuckles eventually moved on, once protection for gay members was diminished. He then began his own nightclub, The Power Plant, and his fame began to take him international. He began playing shows overseas in London and on the party island of Ibiza.
The House Music Pioneer
Knuckles would often modify his sound to suit his crowd and then mix it with synthesizer-based music tracks from Europe or the New Wave scene. This exact combination is what led to his creation of “House” style music. House music was then described as a “hybrid of drum machine rhythms and synthesized basslines that are mixed with other tracks”. His hypnotic, thumping beats and sounds were quick to become a phenomenon and burned through the dance floors all over North America before they were able to find a second home with the party crowds in Europe and Australia.
Frankie Knuckles Early DJ Career
“I play strictly off the cuff, “Frankie was once quoted saying, “My mixes are never planned or premeditated”
Frankie’s start was small and humble, as he started his part time DJ’ing while he was a student at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Later on, he would encounter his mentor, Larry Levan, who was a DJ from the Paradise Garage Club in Manhattan. Levan would help encourage and spur the rise of House music, by leading the Post-Disco music transformation; however, he passed away in 1992 from an apparent heroin addiction.
Frankie Knuckles Most Famous UK Hit
Knuckles would eventually bring himself to pop stardom in the U.K. where he was signed with Virgin Records. His song, “The Whistle Song” was at this point, only an instrumental track in 1991 when the U.S. was only used to instrumentals being Classical or jazz, however, the track went big in England, making No. 17 and earning a spot on a popular Nestea commercial.
The Celebrity Remixer
Frankie Knuckles was the pioneer for sounds that would become the musical genre recognized as a new club culture, all over the world. Frankie was often called “The Godfather of House Music” for his creation of a sound that was able to influence his respective field in a way no other could.
Frankie Knuckles was often in demand as remixer to the stars, working on tracks for Depeche Mode, Michael Jackson, Diana Ross and countless others. He was known as gentle and extremely generous. As a well-liked person in both the club and record-industry circles, Frankie won a Grammy in 1997 for Remixer of the Year and in 2004, he was inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame.
Life & Death
Knuckles would often use his celebrity and much of his time, to provide entertainment for various events including AIDS charity events, or events concerning children. He was often quoted saying “I cannot stand to hear a child cry of want, hunger, or a lack of love.” Frankie Knuckles reportedly, died from complications of his diabetic condition aged 59, on March 31st 2014. He was able to play his final set at the Ministry of Sound in London, on that previous Saturday.
Never before has anyone been able to spur such a forward momentum in the music genre between the decades. He is still, currently one of the most renowned DJ’s in the world and his two most popular albums, Beyond the Mix and Welcome to the Real World, express some of his most soulful songs and feature some of the world’s most amazing vocalists.
“He loved his work more than he loved himself, “ said his manager, Judy Weinstein, “Not that he didn’t love himself, but that was really how it went.”