FRANKIE KNUCKLES HAS PASSED AWAY
I had been meaning to play a particular song for my two oldest children, aged 2 and 5, for quite some time now. It is a happy song, one that I was sure would have them dancing around, feeling what so many who have heard this song over the years have felt, and that is simply, happy. Tonite, after a weekend spent setting up my equipment again after some major interior decorating, I finally got around to playing that song. The song was ‘The Whistle Song’ by Frankie Knuckles.
After putting the kids to bed I jumped on the computer as is usually the case and soon after I noticed Anane had posted ‘The Whistle Song’ to her wall. Random, yet sweet coincidence I thought. An hour later, another friend, DJ and producer Kev Kruz posted yet another Knuckles tune, this one his classic ‘Tears.’ I was so moved by the coincidence I wrote a reply to this second post and asked if it was his birthday or something. He replied with the following heartbreaking words: “News is spreading that he passed away. I can’t say for sure.”
After hoping it was simply some April Fool’s joke I took to Google. Nothing. So, it’s not true I hoped, even as a sinking feeling started to make itself very apparent. Then the phone rang. My heart sank completely. An industry friend, someone who knows many of the legends of House music personally called to inform me that yes, it is true, Frankie Knuckles, the Godfather of House music has in fact passed away, apparently from complications due to diabetes.
Knuckles who was only 59, was born in the Bronx in 1955 -side note and yet another coincidence for me, I am now writing this from the Bronx. He was a childhood friend of another legendary DJ, Larry Levan. Levan sadly passed away -also much too early- but Knuckles would eventually move to and make his name in Chicago. It was there that he would make the Warehouse club the now legendary institution we hear so much about, and it was there that Knuckles brought to the world the genre we have come to universally call House music.
Knuckles would go on to take that four to the floor beat of House music all over the world, from his first single ‘You Can’t Hide’, to his remix work with greats such as Robert Owens, Chaka Khan, Pet Shop Boys, Diana Ross, and both Janet and Michael Jackson, he did it all. Knuckles influence is so profound, he would not only go on to win a GRAMMY in 1997 for Remixer of the Year, Non-Classical, he also had a street named after him in Chicago, “The Godfather of House Music” Frankie Knuckles Way. To say that he was influential is an understatement indeed. This is a huge loss for not only house music, but the entire dance music scene especially, and beyond.
House music is going through major changes these days. What the younger and newer fans call House music is not what Knuckles and his contemporaries created. And that is not necessarily a bad thing, but when you see it go from underground clubs to pricey festivals, when you notice the names and faces start to change, when the term EDM becomes the de-facto term used to represent this dance music culture we all love so much, one can’t help but see the pages of time changing. But Knuckles passing, well, that signifies a major turning point in the history of House music. Today, a major part of the genre has died. Let’s hope Frankie Knuckles spirit will continue to infuse it and that the heart of House music remains the same.
Thank you Frankie Knuckles for introducing me to House music. My life has never been the same. And I thank you for that. Rest in power my friend.
The Whistle Song
Live at Boiler Room