By Scott T. Sterling
Shock and sadness hit the music community hard last night (March 31) as news spread that pioneering and GRAMMY-winning DJ/producer Frankie Knuckles had died at the age of 59.
His passing was confirmed by longtime business partner Frederick Dunson, who told the Chicago Tribune that Knuckles had “died unexpectedly this afternoon at home.” While details are forthcoming, Knuckles had been living with late-breaking Type II diabetes.
Knuckles was known as “The Godfather of House,” among the cornerstones of house music and culture through his legendary DJ residences at Chicago clubs like Power Plant and the Warehouse, where he’d spin a wildly diverse range of music re-edited for maximum dance-floor impact. His signature style became known as the Warehouse sound and was the original source of the term “house music.” In 2004, a portion of Jefferson Street in Chicago where the Warehouse once stood was renamed “Frankie Knuckles Way.”
As his legend grew, Knuckles would go on to release a series of seminal original productions and remixes, including 1986 single “Your Love” with vocalist Jamie Principal and probably his most famous production, 1991’s “The Whistle Song.”
While Knuckles’ traditional dance sound dipped in popularity in the early Aughts, the recent revival of classic house music led by such acts as Disclosure and MK have brought the deep, disco and R&B-tinged Chicago style back to the forefront of modern EDM.
Knuckles played at London’s famed Ministry of Sound club on March 29, just two days before his untimely passing.
News of his passing generated a flood of tributes from music luminaries across social networks, with Questlove, Carl Craig, Disclosure, Steve Angello, Boy George, Just Blaze and Pete Tong all offering public condolences.
“RIP Frankie Knuckles,” Duke Dumont wrote on Twitter. “Had the honor of working with you last year. Eternally grateful for laying the blueprint that is house.”
Knuckles won the first-ever GRAMMY presented in the Best Remixer, Non-Classical category in 1997.