Frankie Knuckles, the undisputed “Godfather of House Music,” has died at the age of 59. Business partner Frederick Dunson confirmed that the Chicago DJ passed away unexpectedly on March 31. Dunson said the legend suffered with diabetes.
A native of the Bronx, Knuckles got his start in New York. While attending New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, he and his friend Larry Levan worked after-hours as disc Jockeys. As they gained popularity, the duo was later featured at several iconic discos, including The Gallery and Continental Baths.
By 1977, Knuckles and Levan were both well know and respected in the disco, R&B, and soul music scene. Although they got their start as a duo, the DJs eventually parted ways.
Following the split, Frankie Knuckles headed to Chicago to work with friend Robert Williams at the newly opened Warehouse club. Knuckles DJed at the iconic dance club for five years.
The South Jefferson St. Warehouse became one of the hottest clubs in Chicago. Knuckles’ unique mixes included “a wide cross-section of music,” which often combined disco, soul, and Rock & Roll. Frankie’s mixes, which were featured at the Warehouse, eventually became widely known as “House Music.”
In 1983, Frankie left the Warehouse to start his own club — The Power Plant. Although the dance club eventually closed in 1987, Frankie Knuckles went on to work at Delirium in the UK. He later returned to New York, where he DJed at numerous clubs, including The World and The Choice Club.
As reported by Jango, Knuckles eventually focused on recording and producing. As a producer, he often remixed songs by legendary musicians, including Diana Ross, Luther Vandross, Michael Jackson, and Toni Braxton.
In a 2011 interview, Frankie discussed how he worked with the popular musicians:
“… you’ve got someone as big as Luther Vandross and Michael Jackson sitting there saying, ‘Whatever you want, however you want it… ‘ that’s the reward right there… All the programmers I worked with were all classically trained musicians… I was teaching them a different side of what it is they do. Infusing certain ideas like Debussy-esque piano over a very thick house track or bass line is something that blew their minds.”
As reported by Rolling Stone, Frankie suffered with diabetes for years. Although the condition caused numerous setbacks, including the loss of his foot, Frankie continued to DJ at numerous popular clubs and music festivals.
Frankie Knuckles will always be remembered as the undisputed “Godfather of House Music.”
[Image via Redbull.com]