From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Frankie Knuckles (born January 18, 1955, New York) is an American DJ, record producer and remix artist. He played an important role in developing house music (an electronic, disco-influenced dance music) as a Chicago DJ in the 1980s and he helped to popularize house music in the 1990s, with his work as a producer and remixer. In 2005, Knuckles was inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame for his achievements as a DJ.
While studying textile design at FIT in Manhattan, Knuckles began working as a DJ, playing soul, disco and R&B at The Continental Baths with fellow DJ Larry Levan. When he became better known, he DJed at the club Better Days. When the Warehouse club opened in Chicago in 1977, he was invited to play on a regular basis. He continued DJing there until 1982, when he started his own club, The Power Plant.
It is possible that the term 'house music' surfaced in reference to the sounds played at the Warehouse by Knuckles. Initially it was a catch-all term to describe the wide range of music being played at the Warehouse. It soon became the word used to define the raw, drum machine based edits and tracks that Knuckles was playing in the early 1980s. Knuckles bought his first drum machine from a young Derrick May who, regularly made the trip from Detroit to see Knuckles at the Warehouse, and Ron Hardy at the Music Box.
Knuckles also had a musical partnership 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.
As house music gained momentum, pioneering producer Chip E. took Knuckles under his tutelage and produced Knuckle's first recording, "You Can't Hide", featuring vocalist Ricky Dillard. Then came more production work, including Jamie Principle's "Baby Wants to Ride", and later "Tears" with Robert Owens (of Fingers, Inc.) and (Knuckles' protege and future Def Mix associate) Satoshi Tomiie.
Knuckles left the Warehouse to start his own club, The Power Plant, in 1983. When the Power Plant closed in 1987, he DJed for 4 months at Delirium in the UK before moving to New York. He was the featured resident DJ at The World, and also had numerous subsequent residencies, including at The Choice club.
In New York, he immersed himself in producing, remixing and recording.
Knuckles did a number of popular Def Classic Mixes with John Poppo as sound engineer. Knuckles partnered with David Morales on Def Mix Productions, and both men's mixing styles became similar for a period in the early 1990s as they honed the formula for a "Def Classic Mix" sound. With several important original productions and remixes to his name, by the early 1990s, Knuckles was becoming a well-known name in the increasingly popular house music genre.
In 1991 he released his biggest hit to date, "The Whistle Song", which bears a slight similarity to Van McCoy's "The Hustle" in its whistle-like refrain. The Def Classic Mix of "Change" by Lisa Stansfield done around this period also featured the whistle like motif. Knuckles' debut album - Beyond the Mix, released on Virgin Records also contained "Rain Falls" and featured vocals from Lisa Michaelis. Key remixes from this time include his rework of the Electribe 101 anthem "Talking With Myself" and "Where Love Lives" by Alison Limerick.
As his productions and remixes were becoming more popular, and he was also breaking new ground. When Junior Vasquez took a sabbatical from Manhattan's The Sound Factory, he took over and launched a successful run as resident DJ until Vasquez made his return, at which point Knuckles became the resident DJ at The Sound Factory Bar. Knuckles remained part of the underground scene. In 1992, Billboard 's Larry Flick commented "He's probably the best dance music producer we have in America. He understands the groove, but he understands songs, and the whole picture." Knuckles won the 1997 Grammy Award for Remixer of the Year, Non-Classical.
Knuckles continued to work as a remixer through the 90s 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 2004, he released a thirteen track album of original material - his first in over a decade, entitled A New Reality, which was critically well received. In October 2004 "Your Love" appeared in the videogame Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, playing on house music radio station, SF-UR. On 19 September 2005, Knuckles was inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame for his outstanding achievement as a DJ.
In popular culture
- "Rains Falls" - Single
- "You Can't Hide from Yourself" - CBS Records
- "Tears" - Single - Frankie Knuckles presents Satoshi Tomiie - FFRR
- "Your Love/Baby Wants To Ride" - Trax Records
- "Beyond the Mix" - Virgin Records
- "The Whistle Song" - Virgin Records
- "Sessions Six - Mixed by Frankie Knuckles" - Ministry of Sound
- "Choice: A Collection of Classics" - Trax Records
- "Keep on Movin'" - Definity Records
- "A New Reality" - Definity Records
- "This Time" - Chanté Moore
- "Happy" - Towa Tei
- "Let No Man Put Asunder" - First Choice
- "Ain't Nobody" - Chaka Khan
- "Watcha Gonna Do with My Lovin'" - Inner City
- "Talking with Myself" - Electribe 101
- "The Pressure" - Sounds of Blackness
- "Where Love Lives (Come On In)" - Alison Limerick
- "I Want A Dog" - Pet Shop Boys
- "Notgonnachange" - Swing Out Sister
- "Because of Love" - Janet Jackson
- "Love Hangover" - Diana Ross
- "Bring Me Love" - Andrea Mendez
- "Rock with You" - Michael Jackson
- "Scream" (remixed by Knuckles and David Morale) - Michael Jackson
- "Thriller" (remixed by Knuckles and David Morale) - Michael Jackson
- "You Are Not Alone" - Michael Jackson
- "Closer Than Close" - Rosie Gaines
- "Unbreak My Heart" - Toni Braxton
- "Sunshine" - Gabrielle
- "I'm Going to Go" - Jago
- "Blind" - Hercules & Love Affair
- "You've Got the Love" - The Source ft. Candi Staton
- "Million Dollar Bill" - Whitney Houston
- List of number-one dance hits (United States)
- List of artists who reached number one on the US Dance chart
- Def Classic Mix