Frankie Knuckles - The Godfather of House 1955/2014

Words by: Stephen Flynn
Posted: 3/4/14 12:21

Frankie Knuckles - The Godfather of House-  (January 18, 1955 – March 31, 2014) - R.I.PFor a generation of clubbers who've grown up around the influence of Frankie Knuckles, his death earlier this week came as a major shock. While it's hard to comprehend the passing of anyone who's had a distinct effect on your life, Frankie's death really hit home for a number of reasons.

For a start, there was, of course, the music, and where bonafide house anthems are concerned, it's telling that potent weapons such as Let The Music Use You and Your Love are still practically without peer. Not a bad achievement when one considers the vast technological advancements which have intervened over the past few decades.

While I'm too young to have witnessed Frankie spin at his natural habitat, The Warehouse in Chicago, it obviously goes without saying that he wasn't just a DJ and producer of considerable repute - but a serious innovator to boot. Before the age of the remix, Knuckles was known to go to extreme lengths to alter his tunes, with even razor blades and glue used to change the dimensions of his records.

While that might sound ludicrous now, back in Frankie's day it offered further proof of the lengths he'd go to for his love of music. From the outset, he was clearly determined to put his stamp on the music, and specifically, 'house', with his own inimitable charm.

When I think of this generation's deceased musical heroes, the likes of Notorious BIG and Michael Jackson are names which instantly come to mind. Even so, for all of that duo's appeal, their deaths weren't really occasions which resonate with the vast majority of the clubbing fraternity. BIG because most of us involved (or vaguely interested) in electronic music are pretty far removed from the world of 'gangster rap', and Jackson, tragically, because he'd long lost touch with reality by the time he passed. Frankie on the other hand, practiced as he preached, and personified his own message of peace, love and understanding through a gentle, warm and welcome demeanor – not to mention an instantly recognisable smile.

Frankie Knuckles was, in short, exactly the sort of person you'd want to befriend in a club. He helped change the perception of what a nightclub was all about by manipulating his most forceful weapon – the music - to maximum effect, and his influence was such that it brought people of all sorts of backgrounds, race and sexual persuasion together as they danced in unison to his select choices.

Nowadays, such situations are commonplace, but way back when, Knuckles' influence was almost as political as it was musical. For a sound (house music) that was, and in many ways, still is, considered to represent the future, making sense of Frankie's passing is a particularly raw exercise; not least because it signifies the passing of an age of innocence where the music and respect for your fellow man trumped all else.

Nearly three decades since he first blazed a trail, millions of us are still embracing electronic music and, in essence, celebrating Frankie's legacy every weekend. And in an age where celebrity deaths are often the cause for mocking and derision, Knuckles' lofty reputation was such that only pure admiration attached itself to his passing.

For all of the phony bullshit which often attaches itself to the contemporary electronic music scene, it was somewhat refreshing to witness the love, respect and admiration which greeted the poignant news. While it's easy to look back on Knuckles' halcyon days with rose-tinted glasses, his effect on contemporary music is absolutely unquestionable. Legends come and legends go, but decades after Frankie Knuckles helped popularise house music, it's still a sound that's massively popular in all four corners of the world. And by the looks of things, his influence will be keenly felt for a long, long time yet. But it's highly unlikely that we'll witness the likes of The Godfather of House ever again.

Frankie Knuckles - The Godfather of House  (January 18, 1955 – March 31, 2014) - R.I.P


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