Godfather of House Frankie Knuckles dies at 59

Caitlin Greene

Frankie Knuckles

Legendary club scene figure Frankie Knuckles succumbed yesterday to what sources are reporting were complications with type II diabetes, which he'd been diagnosed with in the mid-2000s.

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Knuckles, born Francis Nicholls, broke ground in the late 70s when he moved from New York to Chicago around the time that disco was making its exit from popular culture. Having been mentored by influential DJ Larry Levan during his New York years, Knuckles brought a particular brand of inspiration to the Chicago club scene—spots like The Warehouse and The Power Plant—giving him the cred and the space to invent something people had truly never heard before. The Chicaco Tribune reports, “he would extend mixes of soul and R&B records and turn them into dance tracks, introduce new singles being produced by fledgling house artists and incorporate drum machines to emphasize the beat. In addition to building dynamic ebb-and-flow sets that would keep his dancefloor filled from midnight to noon on weekends, he would create theater-of-the-mind scenarios with inventive sound and lighting.”

In honor of his stamp on the city's cultural map, Chicago named a street after him, near to where The Warehouse used to stand, on Jefferson Street between Jackson Boulevard and Madison Street. Among many accomplishments, he should be remembered for changing people's relationship to dance music, and to themselves on the dancefloor.

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