Frankie Knuckles, a Grammy Award-winning Chicago disc jockey known as the “Godfather of House Music,” died March 31 in Chicago. He was 59.
The Cook County medical examiner announced the death but said the cause was not yet available.
Mr. Knuckles, who worked with such artists as Michael Jackson and Diana Ross, is considered a key figure in the evolution of the house music genre, dating back three decades to venues in Chicago and New York. Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Tuesday that Chicago has lost “one of its most treasured cultural pioneers.”
Mr. Knuckles was born Francis Nicholls on Jan. 18, 1955, in the Bronx. He worked as a DJ in New York in the early 1970s before moving to Chicago in the late ’70s. In Chicago, he was resident DJ at the city’s The Warehouse, until the club closed in 1983.
It was there that he defined House music’s style and took on the role of DJ as tastemaker, said Phil White, co-author of “On the Record: The Scratch DJ Academy Guide.”
Mr. Knuckles “defined, really, what House music was in terms of style,” White said. Knuckles would even cut and tape together pieces of reel-to-reel recordings to make extended tracks, White said.
Mr. Knuckles went on to have a recording career, putting out albums on Virgin Records and working as a producer and remixer with many musicians. He had a hit with his first album’s first single, “The Whistle Song.”
Mr. Knuckles won a Grammy in 1997 for Remixer of the Year. He was a governor and trustee for the New York City chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.
“His electrifying remixes and high-energy performances on the turntables packed clubs for decades, and he inspired a generation of DJs, bringing house music to the mainstream,” the academy said in a statement.
— Associated Press