Why do they call it House music? When you become an icon behind the wheels, you are not just playing a style or format of music, you are branding your own sound that embodies the space where you played. For legendary DJ Frankie Knuckles, his space was Chicago’s Warehouse Club. So when people went to hear his blend of soulful Garage music infused with some other electronic dance oriented creations from the late seventies, the word House became associated with this man’s stomping ground, but it wasn’t the four-on-the-floor house sound that we’re actually used to, but nevertheless, the name stuck, and in the late eighties, a distinct visceral sound was born that spread like wildfire through Europe and then eventually made its way back to major US cities known as House Music. He didn’t actually create the sound but rather diversified the platform that allowed for the genre to flourish.
But before that phenomenon, Frankie Knuckles had spawned his style for sound in the early seventies after various stints with some other legendary New York City DJs, which included Larry Levan, David Mancuso, and Nicky Siano, just to name a few. The immense vibe generated off eachother was a portion of what helped to establish New York City as the dance music mecca or the epicenter of electronic dance music, so it’s safe to say that without the New York City influence for Frankie, there really wouldn’t have been House Music, well… at least it wouldn’t have been called that.
But unlike other DJs, he didn’t just stop at digging in the crates. He developed his trademark style as a remixer and producer under the auspices of Def Mix Productions with then partner in crime David Morales, which made his name and reputation a global phenom, and the rest is history. He just kept going and going and going behind the booth from vinyl to CDs to CD-rs to MP3s, and from behind the mixing board with his amazing keyboardist and remix partner Eric Kupper under the production name Director’s Cut. His passing is untimely, and he will be missed. So the next time you hear the phrase House Music, you know the legend responsible for making it.
Francis Nicholls aka Frankie Knuckles R.I.P. (January 18, 1955 – March 31, 2014)
Here are some of my favorite productions that he shaped into some wonderful dance classics:
[click to hear]
And here’s an up close DJ set at the Boiler Room that will give you a taste of his vibe: