Frankie Knuckles Remembered

Written by Steve J Proctor
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There are ONLY two words, other than the words themselves, which mean House Music … and those two words are … FRANKIE KNUCKLES.

I first read those two words in a New York Record store in 1987, when I was attending the New Music Seminar, looking for tracks to sign to my 'Urban' label. An up and coming DJ by the name of Paul Oakenfold and myself, were in Vinyl Mania on a midweek early afternoon, listening to

Manny spin through tracks as we browsed. All of a sudden a spine tingling Cowbell riff and luscious Bass line stopped us dead in our tracks …. We both looked at each other and simply smiled and nodded. Oh Yeah ! this was a record we HAD to have …. Of course it was The Nightwriters 'Let The Music (use you)' on Danica records, and there in the list of credits was THE name of THE Godfather of House.

So when, less than a year later, I first met Frankie in the Basement Bar of 'The Limelight' in London, I was really excited to talk to him about the track. But I have to say that it was the sheer brilliance of his set that night which really captured me. It took me on a journey, and I felt as though it cared for me as I travelled along. It was something I had never experienced before and it has inspired the way I play, from that night until now.

FRANKIE KNUCKLES 2And when we spoke after his set it was wonderful to experience his passion for music. I found it inspiring to hear a DJ talk about how he felt about communicating that passion to people, and how he almost felt it was a divine mission to share his knowledge and love. One of my favourite quotes from him relates to the time when he was still in New York and being mentored by Larry Levan. He said … "We would spend entire afternoons working up ideas on new ways to present a record so that people would hear it in a new way and fall in love with it.

This would often mean recording a short section of a track numerous times onto tape, and then editing those sections together to extend and accentuate the parts that they felt were the most exciting. This was long before the easy digital editing which is around now, and was the beginning of the technique which Frankie would develop as part of creating the 'House' sound in Chicago. I'm sure that it was also the mentoring by Levan which inspired Frankie to support and mentor countless other DJ's and Producers over the years, including Steve 'Silk' Hurley. 

It's important that we don't forget that Frankie didn't ONLY do 'House Music'. He worked his magic on many different genres and brought the same LOVE and PASSION to everything he worked on. I could go on to talk about the incredible way that Frankie's magic has inspired generations of Dj's, Producers and Musicians over the decades, in relation to DJing, music selection, technique, mixing, remixing, production and so much more, but that has already been done by far better writers than myself, with a better knowledge and in some cases, more experience.

Instead I would like to reflect on the beautiful and wonderful human being that Frankie was, and as I've read through many of the tributes, it has struck me that a number of words come up again and again.

Frankie Knuckles New York 1

Humble, Kind, Considerate, Helpful, Gracious, Classy, Gentle, Positive, Supportive, Inspiring, Professional, Passionate, …. These are just some of the many qualities which Frankie happily shared and gave to everyone he came into contact with, whether over a long period of time or in a brief encounter. And it is these qualities which I know informed the way in which Frankie played and made music. His genuine love of music was perfectly matched by his love of life and his desire to share his positive goodness with the world through his music.

Frankie never had a bad word about anyone and no one has a bad word about him. That is by far the most fitting tribute to such a wonderful Human Being. I feel very deeply that this is, in some ways, as big an influence to those of us of the 'House Music' generations, as indeed his music. For it's because of what was in his heart, that Frankie was able to share that with us ALL, through his Beautiful Music. And I believe that it is this feeling which has brought and bound us together under the banner of 'House Music', across the world and the decades. In a way I feel that this is a far deeper influence than his music … he has touched our very Souls with the beauty of his.  

Frankie Knuckles New York3.His music was always steeped in emotion and obviously informed by his beliefs. On the basis that he didn't drink or take drugs, one can only assume that there HAD to be some Divine Energy running through Frankie, which resulted in him quite rightly becoming recognised as the ONLY 'Godfather of House'. That is apparent by the reverence and appreciation which has been expressed by EVERY other DJ and Producer who is involved with the Genre, as well as Millions of people worldwide. His music wasn't just about rhythm, it was about The Human Condition, The Soul, Dignity, Grace and Love. He saw the dance floor as a unifying place where people of ALL persuasions, sexualities and races could find calm freedom.

He once said … "Even when people are hopping up and down in a frenzy on the dancefloor, it still has their spirits calm because they’re concentrating on having a good time, loving the music, as opposed to thinking about something negative. I think dancing is one of the best things anyone can do for themselves. And it doesn’t cost anything.”

And on top of everything … Frankie had the most wonderful Smile … which he shared with everyone. It was almost like he was shining the light of his beautiful soul on us through his smile. It was always a pleasure to see that smile and to experience the warmth, passion and positivity which Frankie radiated. It is truly sad that Frankie has left us, but I will always remember him and smile, as I'm certain that's what he would want.

I could write for a thousand more words and still not do justice to the incredible way in which we have ALL been touched by the talent of  Frankie Knuckles, the DJ, Producer and Musician, so instead I would like to leave it here, and simply say to the wonderful inspirational man, Frankie Warren Knuckles Junior …. Thank  you for YOU

© Steve J Proctor
Read 4932 times Last modified on Friday, 08 May 2015 15:05
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