Monday, March 31, countless mourned when word that Frankie Knuckles had passed in his Chicago home. Known as The Godfather of House Music, for many contemporary music lovers his importance may not be so obvious. However, to historians of urban music, house was the signature sound of the club scene from the late 80s through the early 90s. Knuckles is seen as one of the most important individuals responsible for its popularity.
Born Frank Warren Nicholls in the Bronx, NY, Knuckles became a DJ while attending NY’s Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT). While spinning soul, disco and R&B during his FIT days in the mid to late 70s, he moved to Chicago and DJ’d at The Warehouse before opening his own club, The Power Plant. Producer Chip E produced Knuckles’ first single “You Can’t Hide” in 1986. And after his club closed in 1987, Frankie Knuckles would spin at Delirium in the United Kingdom for four months. By then, house music was fast becoming an international phenomenon. And his biggest personal hit was “The Whistle Song," which was on his Beyond the Mix debut album-released on Virgin Records in 1991.
Knuckles is responsible for remixing songs by Michael Jackson, Luther Vandross, Diana Ross, and Toni Braxton among others. He won a Grammy Award for Remixer of the Year, Non-Classical in 1997, and was inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame in 2005. And thanks to Illinois state senator Barack Obama, the street where his club The Power Plant once stood was named Frankie Knuckles Way.
Frankie was 59 at the time of his death due to what some suspect were complications from the Type II Diabetes that he was diagnosed with earlier in the decade.