Frankie Knuckles, the pioneering Chicago DJ/producer known as “The Godfather of House Music” passed away Monday at the age of 59, while still living in Chicago and being widely credited with helping to define the post-disco sound that came to be known as House. It’s not clear how Knuckles died, but a statement is expected to be released on Tuesday.
Knuckles was born in New York City, he first spun as a disco DJ in the early 1970s, together with childhood friend and garage pioneer Larry Levan at the Continental Baths. In 1977 he moved to Chicago, where he quickly made his mark. He became the musical director of pioneering South Loop nightclub The Warehouse, believed to be the birthplace and namesake of house music, and where Knuckles first started experimenting with mixing disco and European electronic music, and took things to the next level.
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Like many house DJs, Knuckles’ influence was just as big in Europe as on his native soil. On Saturday, he was a featured performer at London’s Ministry Of Sound. Chicago house music DJ Derrick Carter, who has his own international following, first met Knuckles in the 1980s when he was a teenager managing a downtown record store. Knuckles’ life-long friend said that: “It’s a dark day … I’m in an emotional limbo where I don’t quite know how to process this. He was always just a decent guy, always had nice bits of advice to give. As a kid who grew up in the suburbs, I was a bit star struck, but at no time in our relationship did he ever big-time me like that.”
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Carter also told the press that Knuckles not only pioneered the house genre, but he also led the way for other DJs and showed them that they could actually make a living spinning records and mixing music. Several other local and international DJs were sharing their memories via Twitter Monday night, including The Roots drummer Questlove who tweeted, “Frankie Knuckles was so under-appreciated. he was the DJ that DJs aspired to be. A true dance pioneer”. He will be missed.
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