Frankie Knuckles, house music ‘godfather,’ dead at 59
by Greg Kot
In Chicago, Frankie Knuckles was called the “godfather,” not because of any underworld connections, but because he helped build house – a style of Chicago dance music that revolutionized club culture in the ‘70s and ‘80s and still resonates around the world today.
In addition to developing the sound and culture of house music, Knuckles would go on to mix records by major artists such as Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson and Depeche Mode.
Knuckles learned his craft as a club DJ in New York City, then moved to Chicago in the late ‘70s and developed a reputation as one of the city’s most influential dance-music tastemakers. He arrived in Chicago just as disco was losing steam. For many, disco literally went up in flames between games of a Chicago White Sox double header at Comiskey Park, when radio deejay Steve Dahl blew up hundreds of disco albums.
“I witnessed that caper that Steve Dahl pulled at Disco Demolition Night and it didn’t mean a thing to me or my crowd,” Knuckles told the Tribune. “But it scared the record companies, so they stopped signing disco artists and making disco records. So we created our own thing in Chicago to fill the gap.”
Knuckles was mentored by the renowned DJ Larry Levan in the early ‘70s while in New York. “We would spend entire afternoons working up ideas on how to present a record so that people would hear it in a new way and fall in love with it,” Knuckles said. “To us it was an art form.”