As the shocking news spread like wildfire, the dance music community hoped beyond hope that news of his passing was a cruel April Fool’s Day joke, but it soon became clear that Chicago House Music legend and godfather Frankie Knuckles had indeed passed away.
A formidable DJ and producer, Knuckles began DJing in New York in the late 70s with Disco legend Larry Levan. He moved to Chicago, where he pioneered the sound that would become recognized as House with Derrick May, Ron Hardy, Jamie Principle, Marshall Jefferson, Jackmaster Farley, and Robert Owens.
His blissful production work led to remix duties for everyone from Michael Jackson to Luther Vandross to Lisa Stansfield to Depeche Mode.
Also his perfect classic “Whistle Song” found an extraordinary mainstream platform when it got licensed for a Lipton Iced Tea commercial long before that was a clever thing to do. (Personally, that commercial was my first experience with House music and obviously left an indelible mark.)
His undeniable contribution to music culture was cemented in 2004, when the city of Chicago honored Knuckles by renaming their Jefferson Street, near the site of the legendary Warehouse Club, “Frankie Knuckles Way.” Additionally, several years back, the indie scene became aware of Knuckles when Animal Collective brilliantly sampled “Your Love” for their breakthrough track, “My Girls.”
Knuckles most recently had been DJing in the UK and had a series of tour dates throughout the summer. He was scheduled to make a number of West Coast appearances in the fall.
Rarely seen or photographed without his trademark infectious smile, the artist known as Frankie Knuckles passed away unexpectedly at his home at the age of 59.