Frankie Knuckles, known to many as the “godfather of house music” because he pioneered the electronic dance music in Chicago club culture during the 1970s and ’80s, died Monday at the age of 59.
Knuckles’ longtime business partner Frederick Dunson confirmed the DJ’s death to the Chicago Tribune in an email, saying simply that Knuckles had “died unexpectedly this afternoon at home.”
Originally from the Bronx, Knuckles honed his musical skills under the guidance of DJ Larry Levan, before moving to Chicago in the ’70s. The disco scene was fading and as the premiere DJ at The Warehouse, Knuckles pioneered house music by mixing extended soul and R&B records into dance tracks and adding drum machine loops. He would later go on to open his own club, the Power Plant, and work as a producer on house anthems such as “Tears” with Robert Owens. He also mixed records for performing superstars such as Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson and Depeche Mode.
Though house music exploded in Europe, where Knuckles had scores of fans, the DJ was always proudest of Chicago’s music scene. “The people I meet all around the world look at Chicago and the house scene with a new romanticism,” he once told the Tribune. “They recognize more than ever that Chicago is the core of where it all began.”