This post is a very special one as it's on someone whom if it were not for the crafting of his sound specifically to the crowd here in Chicago, and those whom he inspired that went on and created their own music, there might not be this music we call "House" today. But sadly it's also falls on the first anniversary of his untimely death. The Godfather of House music, Frankie Knuckles.
On March 31th, 2014, the world received the news of his sudden passing and it's left a void in the Dance Music community here and around the world ever since. Many thought as I did that it was a cruel April fools joke being that the news started to make it's way around online the evening before April First. As time passed friends close to Knuckles as did various Social Media sites confirmed that his death was in fact true. In a email released to the press by Fredrick Dunson, a long time friend and business partner of Knuckles, he stated that Knuckles had died at his home in Chicago of then unknown causes but later it was revealed that he had succumb to complications due to Type II Diabetes. Knuckles had developed the decease in the mid 2000's and has battled with it ever since.
Knuckles has had countless production and remix credits to his name and a list of artists that he's worked with over the years that included Diana Ross, Michael Jackson and Luther Vandross just to name a few. He's travel'd the world over all while touching people with his spiritual sets and warm heart along the way. And if it were not for fellow DJ and friend Larry Lavan turning down an opportunity to be the resident at a club that mutual friend Robert Williams was opening here back in the the late 70's, Chicago and Dance Music as a whole, might be in a different place then it is now or maybe not even be in existence.
At one point during the night I found myself dancing next to a large group of people and what looked like a bodyguard in front of them. As the night went on I found out it was then rising pop star Christina Aguilera and her entourage that were in attendance. Aguilera, who was on tour around that time, was enjoying the music as her security stood watch. The other was during the end of the night as I went up to the booth I heard a fan with an Italian accent asking Knuckles if he could sign a empty champagne bootle for him to take as a souvenir. Knuckles told him "They're never going to let you take that out of here"! The fan just laughed as Knuckles signed it. The fan proceeded to stuff the bottle down his pants and walked away as everyone in attendance stood there and laughed as Frankie just shook his head.
I would say that "Escapade Chicago" is a mix of hope, inspiration and determination. With lyrics such as "They can't take that away from me", "Don't you ever give up" and "Brighter days are just around the bend" it's hard not to feel motivated after listening to it. As how many felt after experiencing one of Knuckles energetic and spiritual sets. As with other mixes on our site, we try and share lost, classic of forgotten mixes or ones that have a story behind them that we feel need or should to be told. And in this case pay tribute to someone's who's brought countless others joy and happiness in their lives and spread House Music around the world. But sadly it's also a reminder of how his sound is and will be missed by those experienced his sets or listened to his music.
Since we started writing this post, there have been a few announcements that involve Frankie's legacy that we wanted to include. First there was a foundation created in his name called The Frankie Knuckles Foundation. The foundations's primary goal is to preserve and keep the musical legacy of Kunckles alive through media, events, conversation, artistic endeavors and eduction. The foundations site is still in the works but a donate page is linked on the address above. On the anniversary of his death, there were two events that took place in Chicago. One celebrating his life, the other looking to tell it on the big screen. First there was a Boiler Room event at Smartbar Chicago. Knuckles had performed at the venue for over the past 32 years and from what we understand, was the first resident DJ the club ever had. This event was the only official International tribute to the late artist as approved by The Frankie Knuckle Foundation and his estate. The event featured Chicago DJs Elbert Philips, Alan King, Michael Serafini and Derrick Carter. All of which had an intimate and intractable connection with Knuckles over the years and are great artists in there own right. Lastly there was a production kick off party for "The Warehouse". A movie in the works recounting the story behind Chicago's "Warehouse Club" where Knuckles started his career here in the late 1970's and where "House Music" got it's name. It will also tell his legacy behind the decks and will go into detail about his relationship with long time friend Robert Williams, who originally asked Knuckles to move here from New York to DJ at the famed Chicago after-hour night club.
Special thanks to Frederick Dunson from "The Frankie Knuckles Foundation".
Hope this finds you all well.
© Live Sets Chicago. 2015.