Frankie Knuckles was born in The Bronx, and in the 1970's New York was where he cut his teeth as a dj, working in several of the city's hot 'underground' spots. He was helped by a childhood friend, the iconic Larry Levan, who would later become his mentor. They first began djing together at The Continental Baths. While Larry went on to conquer Paradise Garage, Knuckles while still popular in New York, was offered to dj at a new club, The Warehouse in Chicago in 1977, where he would have complete creative control. Levan in fact was one of the people around Knuckles who advised him to go out and there and make his own mark. This he did, djing on a regular basis, making a name for himself and building a huge following. He continued until 1982, when he left to start his own Chicago club called The Power Plant.
His profile continued to rise in the 90's where he remixed records from such major artists as Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Diana Ross and Luther Vandross. The music flow never stopped and in 2004 he released a 13 track album of brand new material entitled 'A New Reality'. For djs, like myself, we have lost a kindred spirit whose love and passion for the music spilled out of everything he was involved with. I have a particular memory of seeing Frankie throw down an almighty dj set at a club in mid town Manhattan during the New Music Seminar of 1992. What impressed me the most was even though the packed venue had a huge amount of record industry folks, who at times can be too cool for school, that night everybody, and I mean everybody jumped and partied like it was........(pardon me, Prince) 1999! I mean New York was on fire that night!!!! For that alone, thank you Frankie. Hopefully right now you will be hanging with your buddy, Larry Levan. R.I.P. Frankie Knuckles
Back in 2005 a documentary looking at the story of the underground New York club scene, from it's very beginnings in the early 70's was released. 'Maestro', made by Josell Ramos, is for me the most definitive look at the culture and includes contributions from a great many people who were there, including Frankie Knuckles. The DVD version includes an entertaining and very imformative 27 minute interview with Knuckles as an extra bonus, where he talks about his career, including his close connection with Larry Levan. Here is a 3 and a half minute clip from that interview. If you are at all interested with the New York club scene (Paradise Garage etc.), I urge you to seek this film out. For any dj who plays any of this kind of music, this is simply essential viewing.
Above I have included an hour long dj set from Frankie Knuckles at The Boiler Room in New York City.
Right here is his classic 'Tears' featuring Robert Owens and Satoshi Tommie from 1989: