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Frankie Knuckles

The man many call the godfather of house, Frankie Knuckles began DJing in New York in the early '70s while still a teenager, years before the disco boom which proved to be the first flowering of modern dance music. Ten years later he was in Chicago, putting together megamixes of old disco hits with new drum-machine percussion for appreciative audiences at crucial clubs like the Warehouse and the Power Plant. Another decade on from those first formative steps for house music, Knuckles was back in his New York home, working as a producer and remixer for the biggest pop stars in the business. Inducted to the Dance Music Hall of Fame two years after its establishment, Knuckles was active until his 2014 death. Without him, dance music would be immeasurably different.

Born in the Bronx in 1955, Knuckles listened to a lot of jazz as a child, thanks to his sister's record collection. He studied commercial art and costume design before taking his first job as a DJ in 1971. Several years later, he hooked up with childhood friend Larry Levan and the two began working at Nicky Siano's New York club, the Gallery. Levan later moved to the Continental Baths, and Knuckles worked at another club for several months before rejoining Levan. Again, Levan left -- this time to set up his own club, the Soho Place -- and Knuckles continued on until the Continental Baths was closed. A group of entrepreneurs initially approached Levan about becoming the DJ at a club they were starting in Chicago; instead of abandoning the interest in his own club, he declined but suggested his friend Frankie Knuckles.

Knuckles moved to Chicago in 1977 and began DJing at the Warehouse, spinning Salsoul and Philadelphia International records in front of a crowd unused to the New York DJing style, which included beat-mixing and the addition of percussion fills (from a separate turntable) to spruce up the sound of traditional soul. In 1983, Knuckles opened his own club, the Power Plant. While Ron Hardy was entrancing a largely gay, uptown crowd at the Music Box, Knuckles introduced the sound to many of the Southside producers who made waves during the '80s: Marshall Jefferson, Larry Heard, Adonis, Steve "Silk" Hurley, and at least half-a-dozen others.

After more than 15 years spinning vinyl, Frankie Knuckles began recording as well, debuting with several singles released on the seminal Trax Records. Such efforts as "Your Love," "Baby Wants to Ride," "You Got the Love," and "Angel" (most credited to Knuckles though vocalist Jamie Principle undoubtedly exercised some influence) were among the best tracks released in the Chicago house explosion of the mid-'80s. Knuckles also recorded for Danica ("Let the Music Use You") and worked with younger producers like Marshall Jefferson as well as future Fingers, Inc. vocalist Robert Owens. Just as Chicago house began spreading worldwide during 1986-1987, though, Knuckles returned to New York. He formed Def Mix Productions with David Morales (one of the other major names in house music) and began working on house treatments for the biggest pop stars of the '80s and '90s, including Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Chaka Khan, Inner City, and En Vogue.

Despite the popularity of house in the international arena, the godfather of the music waited several years before the major labels came calling for something other than a remix. Finally, Virgin signed him to an artist contract in 1991 and released his debut album Beyond the Mix. The singles "The Whistle Song," "Rainfalls," and "Workout" moved up the dance charts, though the album failed to connect with pop or R&B fans. Knuckles continued to produce singles and remix tracks, while his second album, Welcome to the Real World, was released four years later. In 2000, the same year he was tapped to mix the first edition of Azuli's Choice: A Collection of Classics series, he broke his ankle while snowboarding. Although he wasn't as active, his critical role in the development of dance music was acknowledged when, in 2004, a stretch of Chicago's Jefferson Street, near the site of the former Warehouse, was renamed Honorary Frankie Knuckles Way. A year later, he was inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame with the likes of Quincy Jones, Gamble & Huff, Chic, Sylvester, and François Kevorkian. A bone disease worsened by diabetes led to the amputation of Knuckles' ankle in 2008. That year, he reached many younger ears through a remix of Hercules & Love Affair's "Blind." Knuckles continued to DJ globally and played clubs and festivals in front of audiences filled with dancers born years after he helped create and develop his genre. He unexpectedly passed away at home on March 31, 2014. ~ John Bush & Andy Kellman
full bio

Comments

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Whistle song blew my mind back in the days.what's this deep house thang? In love ever since thank u FRANKIE
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mASTER !
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RIP
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Rip my dear friend that made us all so happy through your music always remembered never forgotten
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supanupe2
1 year later to the day... RIP Frankie
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It's still a cold cold world! Ty Frankie!
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Saturday morning 7am right after Fonda Rae after resting in the middle of the floor after a Bratty set. I miss Paradise!
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R.I.P. - You are surely missed...
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Fondest memories of Frankie Knuckles when we shared a garden duplex in a brownstone on W 77 St near Columbus Ave with Roland M., Rafael and Manny. Frankie was DJ at the Continental Baths at the time. Dancing all night at the Gallery, Paradise Garage, etc., breakfast at Tiffany's on Sheridan Square. Those were the days I cherish of my club days.
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Myself and Mother Earth miss you Frankie Knuckles... and yes indeed we shall dance on and on and on to celebrate your talented timeless music!
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walksinwater 7
Frankie was the master of the mix, remix. He is truly unique and missed. But we dance on. For you Mr. Knuckles, Thank You.
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verse642
Here in NewYork..I remember hitting the clubs hard...clubs like Ocktagon...t h e tunnel...pal l a d i u m . .on 14th street..gara g e . . W e b s t e r hall..just to name afew...87 to 90...those where the days...RIP "Knuckles" and thank you!!
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Oh my.......we dance hard and all night and into the morning..... . .
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to the true GODFATHER without him there would be no house for house music
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In rememberance of the master beat by Frankie Knuckles.
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RIP man, we lost a legend
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Working with a little Chicago flavor, show some love for those shortys from Jackie Robinson west out of Chicago in the little league world series. Rep you city chi town.
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IM SO GLAD I have had the chance in this lifetime to dance to his music while he played live in Chicago!!!! and Winter Music Conference Miami... #LEGEND #ICON!! your music will forever live on in our hearts and the dancefloors across the world!!
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Thanks Frankie for all the great music, our city has lost a legend. House Music rules in the city of Chi. The windy city will miss you.
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So very sad to loose another great DJ.... Now you can make and mix beatz from the heavens above .... Gone though NEVER forgotten
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Rest in eternal peace Frankie! House Music was and is a major force in my life, and you played a great part in it. Let's all get rid of all this Dub crap.....bri n g back and pump real dance music back: HOUSE!
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I have listened and enjoyed all types of music in my life, but my most fav has a;ways been House music. I'm a huge fan of House....tha n k you Mr. Knuckles, and may you Rest In Peace while you rock it out in Heaven.
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The Man, The Icon of House...2nd to None!!!
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mewmiki
RIP.
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Frankie was a friend of mine back in the day of the Warehouse and Power Plant. I thank him for putting a rhythm to the soundtrack of my life! RIP my old friend thanks or all the AWESOME musical journeys! You and Ron Hardy PARTY Hardy! Mixing it 4EVER!
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R.I.P. Mr. Frankie Knuckles.... . a true icon in dance & house music <3
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over 30 years....
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William P. Tullis said it all. RIP beautiful soul.
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caseysmom45
RIP FRANKIE!!!!! I will NEVER forget jamming in the warehouse in the chi till 6am and then getting rib tips at bells and bunnies on 63rd street& halsted. REST EASY FRANKIE!!!! LONG LIVE YOUR SPIRIT OIF HOUSE!!!!!!
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williamptull i s
The measure of this man far exceeds his body of work. Above all, For those who knew him personally, we place his love, kindness and affection as a legacy and model to follow. I love and miss you my friend.
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bcsource46
RIP.GODFATHE R YOU RAISED MANY A.ROOM, ROOF AND SPIRIT! B.
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RIP FRANKIE
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RIP Frankie!!! Your legacy shall live on forever in the househead community!
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He will live forever on my pandora station, RIP Frankie, you will be missed.
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s.cooper12
BREATHE PEACE FRANKIE!!! LUV YA MY BROTHER. S~
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blikedajones e s 8
Always a househead.. R.I.Heaven.
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This brother stood out because he had an ear and style that was THE BOMB!!!!! He is still teaching us how its done. R.I.P.
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You brought HOUZE MUZIC to the "angels " R I P ( I no there JACKING up there )
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The BEST to ever lay down some HOUSE TRACKS!!!! BABY WANTS TO RIDE!!!!!!!!
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RIP...Your Legacy will live forever!
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Thank you !
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in.spirit.
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U've gone to be with the angels, but ur huge legacy will fill us with joy here on earth. THANK YOU, GODFATHER.
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The beat will go on and on and on!!! Godspeed!!
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Your Music & Legacy will Live Forever..... . R e s t in Paradise
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RIP. You will truly be missed!!! I can't let goooooo!!!!
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tsubaka08
Can you feel it!?!!! AHHHHH YEAH! DAMN THAT DJ MADE MY "DAY"!!!
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Rest peacefully to the king of house music, a legend!!!! #FrankieKnuc k l e s
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Everyone wants to claim were house/club music comes from and forget the fact that jersey, New York or Chicago. Who really gives a Damn? It's music that make all mankind feels good so just enjoy it and be happy. There was contributors from all to this. R.I.P Frankie
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Left a musically legacy that will be remembered by us House Heads forever. RIP.
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