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Frankie Knuckles

Frankie Knuckles
File:Frankie Knuckles @ ADE 2012.jpg
Knuckles (front) in 2012
Background information
Birth name Francis Nicholls[1]
Also known as The Godfather of House Music
Born (1955-01-18)January 18, 1955
The Bronx, New York, United States
Died March 31, 2014(2014-03-31) (aged 59)
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Years active 1970s–2014
Labels Virgin Records

Francis Nicholls, better known by his stage name Frankie Knuckles (January 18, 1955 – March 31, 2014), was an American DJ and record producer.[2]

Knuckles was born January 18, 1955[1][3] in The Bronx, New York; he later moved to Chicago. He played an important role in developing and popularizing house music in Chicago during the 1980s, when the genre was in its infancy. Due to his importance in the development of the genre, Knuckles was often known as "The Godfather of House Music."[4] Chicago named a stretch of street and a day after Knuckles in 2004 for this role. His accomplishments earned him a Grammy Award in 1997. Knuckles was inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame in 2005 as recognition for his achievements.



While studying textile design at the FIT in New York, Knuckles began working as a DJ, playing soul, disco, and R&B at two of the most important early discos, The Continental Baths and The Gallery, with childhood friend[5] and fellow DJ Larry Levan.[6] In the late 1970s, Knuckles moved from New York City to Chicago,[7] where Robert Williams, an old friend was opening what became the Warehouse. When the Warehouse club opened in Chicago in 1977, he was invited to play on a regular basis, which enabled him to hone his skills and style. This style was a mixture of disco classics, unusual indie-label soul, the occasional rock track, European synth-disco and all manner of rarities, which would all eventually codify as "House Music."[8] The style of music now known as house was of course named after a shortened version of the Warehouse.

Knuckles was so popular that the Warehouse, initially a members-only club for largely black gay men, began attracting straighter, whiter crowds, leading its owner, Robert Williams, to eschew membership.[8] He continued DJing at the Warehouse until November 1982, when he started his own club in Chicago, The Power Plant.[9]

Knuckles bought his first drum machine to enhance his mixes from Derrick May, a young DJ who regularly made the trip from Detroit to see Knuckles at the Warehouse and Ron Hardy at the Music Box, both in Chicago.[10] The combination of bare, insistent drum machine pulses and an overlay of cult disco classics defined the sound of early Chicago house music. A sound which many local producers began to mimic in the studios by 1985. In 1982 Frankie was introduced to Jamie Principle by Jose "Louie" Gomez who remixed the original vocal-dub of "Your Love" by the then unknown Jamie. Louie Gomez met up with Frankie at the local record pool (I.R.S.) and gave a copy of the track on reel-to-reel tape to Frankie. Frankie played Louie's unreleased dub mix for an entire year in his sets where it became a crowd favorite. Knuckles later went into the studio to re-record the track with Jamie Principle, and helped put "Your Love" and "Baby Wants to Ride" out on vinyl after these tunes had been regulars on his reel-to-reel player at the Warehouse for a year.[10]

As house music was developing in Chicago, producer Chip E. took Knuckles under his tutelage and produced Knuckles' first recording, "You Can't Hide from Yourself"[11] Then came more production work, including Jamie Principle's "Baby Wants to Ride", and later "Tears" with Robert Owens (of Fingers, Inc.) and (Knuckles' protégé and future Def Mix associate) Satoshi Tomiie.[10]

When the Power Plant closed in 1987, Knuckles played for four months at Delirium in the United Kingdom. Chicago house artists were in high demand and having major success in the UK with this new genre of music.[12] Knuckles also had a stint in New York, where he continued to immerse himself in producing, remixing, and recording.[10] 1988 saw the release of Pet Shop Boys' third album, Introspective, which featured Knuckles as a co-producer of the song "I Want a Dog."


Knuckles made numerous popular Def Classic Mixes with John Poppo as sound engineer, and Knuckles partnered with David Morales on Def Mix Productions.[13] His debut album Beyond the Mix (1991), released on Virgin Records, contained "seminal work", "The Whistle Song",[14] which was the first of four number ones on the US dance chart.[15] The Def Classic mix of Lisa Stansfield's "Change", released in the same year, also featured the whistle-like motif. Another track from the album, "Rain Falls", featured vocals from Lisa Michaelis. Eight thousand copies of the album had sold by 2004.[16] Other key remixes from this time include his rework of the Electribe 101 anthem "Talking With Myself" and Alison Limerick's "Where Love Lives".

When Junior Vasquez took a sabbatical from The Sound Factory (club) in Manhattan, Knuckles took over and launched a successful run as resident DJ.[17]

Knuckles continued to work as a remixer through the 1990s and into the next decade, reworking tracks from Michael Jackson, Luther Vandross, Diana Ross, Eternal and Toni Braxton. He released several new singles, including "Keep on Movin'" and a re-issue of an earlier hit "Bac N Da Day" with Definity Records. In 1995, he released his second album titled Welcome to the Real World. By 2004, 13,000 copies had sold.[16]

Knuckles played as resident DJ at Genesis (Osaka, Japan) for one year. (Probably in the late 80's or early 90's)[citation needed]

Openly gay, Knuckles was inducted into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame in 1996.[18]

In 2004, Knuckles released a 13-track album of original material – his first in over a decade – titled A New Reality. In October 2004, "Your Love" appeared in the videogame Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, playing on house music radio station, SF-UR.[19]

Awards and honorable recognition

In 1997, Knuckles won the Grammy Award for Remixer of the Year, Non-Classical.[20] In 2004, the city of Chicago – which "became notorious in the dance community around the world for passing the so-called 'anti-rave ordinance' in 2000 that made property owners, promoters and deejays subject to $10,000 fines for being involved in an unlicensed dance party" – named a stretch of street in Chicago[21] after Knuckles, where the old Warehouse once stood, on Jefferson Street between Jackson Boulevard and Madison Street.[22] That stretch of street, called Frankie Knuckles Way, "was renamed when the city declared 25 August 2004 as Frankie Knuckles Day. The Illinois state senator who helped make it happen was Barack Obama."[20] In 2005, Knuckles was inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame for his achievements.[20][21] in 2012 he decided to move to Alabama.

In media and popular culture


Knuckles was featured in the documentary films Maestro (2003), written and directed by Josell Ramos,[23][24] The UnUsual Suspects: Once Upon a Time in House Music (2005), directed by Chip E.[25] and Continental (2013) about the Continental Baths.


Yo Gabba Gabba Season 2, Episode 9 "Clean" (27 Feb. 2009)


October 2004, "Your Love" appeared in the videogame Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, playing on house music radio station, SF-UR.[19]


Knuckles died of Type II diabetes-related complications in Chicago on March 31, 2014 at age 59.[26][27] He had developed the disease in the mid-2000s.[28]

Selected discography



Singles & remixes in charts

Year Single Peak chart positions Album
US Dance
US R&B HipHop
1986 "You Can't Hide from Yourself" singles only
1987 "Only the Strong Survive"
"Baby Wants to Ride" (feat. Jamie Principle)
"It's a Cold World" (feat. Jamie Principle)
1989 "Tears" (feat. Robert Owens) 10 50
"Ain't Nobody (Remix)" (by Rufus & Chaka Khan) 6 Life Is A Dance - The Remix Project
"Your Love" (feat. Jamie Principle) 29 singles only
1990 "Move Your Body (Frankie Knuckles '90 Remix)" (by Marshall Jefferson) 100
1991 "The Whistle Song" 1 62 29 17 Beyond The Mix
"It's Hard Sometime" 10 78 67
1992 "Workout" 1
"Rain Falls" 1 48
"Hangin' On A String (Frankie Knuckles Remix)" (by Loose Ends) 25 Tighten Up Vol. 1
1995 "Too Many Fish" 1 97 34 Welcome To The Real World
(featuring Adeva)
"Whadda U Want (From Me)" 3 36
"Walkin'" 5
1996 "Love Can Change It" 18
2001 "Keep On Movin'" (feat. Nicki Richards) 11 143 Motivation
2004 "Bac N Da Day" (feat. Jamie Principle) 1 163 A New Reality
"Matter Of Time" (feat. Nicki Richards) 6
2006 "The Whistle Song Revisited" 2 DubJ's D'light (A Remixed Reality)
2007 "Gimme Gimme (Disco Shimmy)" 6
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released.

See also

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  1. ^ a b Slotnick, Daniel E. (2 April 2014). "Frankie Knuckles, 59, Pioneer House D.J., Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 April 2014. 
  2. ^ Barnes, Marcus (November 28, 2012). "Frankie Knuckles: An extended chat with the Godfather Of House". The Independent. Retrieved April 1, 2014. 
  3. ^ Matos, Michaelangelo (April 1, 2014). "Frankie Knuckles, Godfather of House Music, Dead at 59". Rolling Stone. Retrieved April 1, 2014. 
  4. ^ "Frankie Knuckles". Retrieved July 2, 2012. 
  5. ^ Frank Broughton (February 27, 1995). "Frankie Knuckles". DJ History (NYC). 
  6. ^ Bush, John. [[[:Template:Allmusic]] "Biography: Frankie Knuckles"]. Allmusic. Retrieved June 8, 2010. 
  7. ^ Greg Kot (April 1, 2014). "Frankie Knuckles, house music 'godfather,' dead at 59". The Chicago Tribune. 
  8. ^ a b "Frankie Knuckles, 'Godfather of House Music,' Dead at 59 | Music News". Rolling Stone. 2014-04-01. Retrieved 2014-07-27. 
  9. ^ Minsker, Evan. "Frankie Knuckles, Chicago House Legend, Dead at 59". Pitchfork. Retrieved April 1, 2014. 
  10. ^ a b c d Greg Kot (April 1, 2014). "Frankie Knuckles, house music 'godfather,' dead at 59". The Chicago Tribune. 
  11. ^ You Can't Hide From Yourself 12 Inch (12" Vinyl Single) UK Portrait 1987, Frankie Knuckles
  12. ^ "Frankie Knuckles « faithfanzine". April 19, 2011. Retrieved March 31, 2012. 
  13. ^ Brandle, Lars. "Frankie Knuckles, House Music Legend, Dies at 59". Billboard. Retrieved April 1, 2014. 
  14. ^ Moran, Lee (April 1, 2014). "Godfather of House' Frankie Knuckles dead at 59". New York Daily News. Retrieved April 2, 2014. 
  15. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Hot Dance/Disco: 1974-2003. Record Research. p. 147. 
  16. ^ a b Paoletta, Michael (May 15, 2004). "The House That Frankie Built". Billboard 116 (20): 30. Retrieved March 24, 2013. 
  17. ^ Slotnik, Daniel E. (April 2, 2014). "Frankie Knuckles, 59, Pioneer House D.J., Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved April 2, 2014. 
  18. ^ "Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame". Retrieved 2014-07-27. 
  19. ^ a b Brett Gibbons (Apr 1, 2014). "Birmingham-bound DJ Frankie Knuckles dies". Birmingham Mail. 
  20. ^ a b c Lars Brandle (April 1, 2014). "Frankie Knuckles, House Music Legend, Dies at 59". The Guardian. 
  21. ^ a b "Frankie Knuckles: House pioneer dies aged 59". BBC. April 1, 2014. 
  22. ^ Greg Kot (April 1, 2004). Chicago Tribune.
  23. ^ "IMDb listing for Maestro". Maestro. 2003. 
  24. ^ Maestro. 2005. ASIN B0009X76ZU. 
  25. ^ The UnUsual Suspects: Once Upon a Time in House Music. IMDb. 2005. Retrieved April 1, 2014. 
  26. ^ "RIP Freddie Knuckles 1955–2014". Fact Magazine. March 31, 2014. Retrieved April 1, 2014. 
  27. ^ "Legendary House DJ Frankie Knuckles Dies at 59". Gawker. March 31, 2014. Retrieved April 1, 2014. 
  28. ^ Hanna Flint (April 1, 2014). "'Godfather of House Music', Frankie Knuckles, 59, dies due to ‘complications relating to Type II diabetes’". Daily Mail. 
  29. ^ Beyond The Mix Frankie Knuckles Virgin Records America 1991
  30. ^ Frankie Knuckles Ft N Richards / Keep On Movin' Junior Records 2001
  31. ^ House Classics IV (Presented by Harley&Muscle) Harley&Muscle Soulstar Records April 11, 2014
  32. ^ Full Time & Antibemusic Rare Tracks, Vol. 1 Various artists Antibemusic pub. May 4, 2010
  33. ^ "Frankie Knuckles - US Dance Club". Retrieved 12 October 2014. 
  34. ^ "Frankie Knuckles - US R&B/Hip-Hop Songs". Retrieved 12 October 2014. 
  35. ^ "Frankie Knuckles - Dutch chart". Retrieved 12 October 2014. 
  36. ^ "Frankie Knuckles - UK Chart". The Official Charts Company. Retrieved 12 October 2014. 

External links

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