Every genre of music throughout time has that one central figure regarded as the originator, the innovator, the godfather. For house music that is undoubtedly Frankie Knuckles.
Hailing from the birthplace of the genre, Chicago, Illinois (whether it was considered the birthplace before Frankie is the definition of a chicken-or-the-egg-paradox), Knuckles was pivotal in giving the genre its name.
Knuckles was one of the first artists to ever play the house sound—raw and refined versions of disco and European electronic with a heavy emphasis on the kick—and he would play this sound in Chicago’s Warehouse nightclub. The initial term was “warehouse music” which was then shortened to “house music” and Knuckles proceeded to take house music to new heights.
Knuckles was a friend and collaborator of other future legends within the scene including Larry Levan, Jamie Principle, and David Morales, traveling from Chicago to the different dance music meccas like New York and Detroit to fully immerse himself in this newfound culture.
By 1987 when house culture was still in its infancy, Knuckles had already released a song that continues to ring out through dance floors around the world, “Your Love.” With its seductive lyrics, heavy grooves, and synthetic overtones, this track captures the essence of house music.
Then not long after in 1991, Knuckles released “The Whistle Song,” which demonstrated the versatility of what house music could be. Its approach is subtle, minimalistic, organic. Elements of jazz float over the danceable beat. Suddenly this was a genre with zero limits, and it’s all thanks to Frankie.
Over the next two decades before he unfortunately passed away in 2014, Knuckles won the first ever Grammy for remixer of the year, August 25 was honored as “Frankie Knuckles Day” in Chicago, and he dedicated his life to charity, supporting numerous causes including Meals on Wheels, GMHC, Pediatric AIDS, and Harvey Milk School.
Frankie Knuckles wasn’t just the “Godfather of House Music” because of his contributions to the sound. He embodied all the best qualities the culture has to offer, and his influence persists with every act of kindness on the dancefloor and beyond.