The 'Godfather of House' Frankie Knuckles passed away on Monday afternoon. We remember the pioneer of house music and his outstanding contribution to the genre and music scene.
The Godfather of House, Frankie Knuckles, has died aged just 59 years old from complications relating to his Type II diabetes. The original pioneer of house music, a genre which originated in 1980s underground dance scene in Chicago, Knuckles still toured the global club circuit and was revered as one of the founding fathers of house.
Frankie Knuckles was dubbed the 'Godfather of House'
Knuckles learned the art of DJing in his home city of New York, where he was mentored by Paradise Garage’s DJ Larry Levan. The pair began to DJ disco, soul and R&B together at The Continental Baths, whilst Knuckles was still studying textile design at FIT. As disco became less popular, Knuckles moved to Chicago where he would experiment with mixing, founding a unique sound by extending soul records with added drum machine loops.
DJing at The Warehouse, a legendary club for fans of house music, Knuckles made a name for himself. The predominantly gay, black scene at The Warehouse were entranced by Knuckle’s fresh sound, dubbing it ‘House Music’. Knuckle’s style became so popular around the city that other DJs would advertise that they were playing ‘house’ to attract the crowds.
By the 80s Knuckles had his own venue in Chicago, the Power Plant. Derrick May, who would go on to be credited with the invention of ‘techno’ music, a variation of house music, would travel from Detroit to see Knuckles, who would later name May’s magnum opus track, “Strings of Life”. At Power Plant Knuckles would premiere several Jamie Principle tracks, including “Baby Wants to Ride” and the immensely popular “Your Love”, which are now considered amongst the original house music classics.
Seeing the rapid growth of house music, producer Chip E. tutored Knuckles in the art of music production, as well as producing “You Can’t Hide”, Knuckles’ debut recording. The Power Plant closed in 1987, by which time house was taking off in the UK, where Knuckles DJed for four months at Delirium. His first album was released in 1991 with Virgin Records and contained his stand out hit “The Whistle Song”.
Throughout the 1990s Knuckles continued to remix tracks, as well as touring the international club scene. He never failed to attract a sell-out crowd and those that saw him behind the decks can attest that he also never failed to radiate enthusiasm and love for what he did, as well as being remarkably grounded and friendly for someone who had achieved such success.
In 2005 Knuckles was honoured by the Dance Music Hall of Fame for his achievements and contributions to DJing. His death comes as sad and shocking news to fans of house music, particularly as he had been so active in the days running up to his death, playing a sell-out gig at Ministry of Sound in London on Saturday night.
Frankie Knuckles was a legend of electronic music and his legacy will surely continue to live on in his tracks and his contribution to the electronic music scene.