Photo courtesy of Wikipedia



The Man; The Music; The Memories
(January 18, 1955 – March 31, 2014)

First of all, I want Frankie’s family and loved ones to know that the WORLD sends our deepest, heartfelt condolences to all of you and that you have the entire planet praying for your healing.

The “House” community from all over the world are mourning the loss of our Godfather. Chicagoans in particular are devastated by the loss of one of our own. I am still in shock after hearing late Monday night of his death. Reports say that he died from complications related to diabetes. Knuckles had developed Type II diabetes in the mid-2000’s. Health problems had slowed him down in recent years – a bone disease stemming from a 2000 injury and intensified by diabetes, which resulted in the amputation of his foot in 2008. He still continued popping up at clubs and festivals.

A Bronx native, he was born Francis Nicholls aka Frankie Warren Knuckles, Jr. He began working as a DJ, playing soul, disco and R&B at The Continental Baths with childhood friend and fellow DJ Larry Levan and forged a career as a DJ in New York in the late 1970’s. He then moved from New York City to Chicago. In 1977, he was invited to move to Chicago and be the Resident DJ at a new club, The Warehouse.

It was here in Chicago, at the Warehouse, that he put house music on the map, fusing disco and its soul foundation with textures from rock and European synth music. No one can deny that house music came from Knuckles. There would be no Knuckles in Chicago though, had it not been for one man, Mr. Robert Williams.

Robert Williams, you know him, the older dude at the parties with the glasses on. He is responsible for bringing us two of the most influential people and after-hour clubs in music history. He introduced us to DJ legends Ron Hardy and The Music Box; and Frankie Knuckles and The Warehouse (where the term “House” is derived). He was born in Queens, NY but in 1975 came to Chicago and wanted to liven up Chicago’s dreadful party scene. “When I came here, there was just absolutely nothing going on. I returned to New York and told my buddies that Chicago was dreadful. They said ‘…give parties in Chicago like we do in New York!’” Like the saying goes…the rest is history.

In 1976, The Warehouse was opened and was the first after-hours club in Chicago. “My parties start at 12 midnight Saturday and ended 12 noon Sunday, sometimes midnight Sunday, depending on how I felt,” Frankie once said. It has had several addresses including 116 S. Clinton, 1400 S. Michigan, 555 W. Adams and the infamous 206 S. Jefferson. Surprisingly, Robert himself was DJ’ing at The Warehouse in the early days. In 1983, Robert and Frankie went their separate ways and Robert opened up The Music Box with Ron Hardy as the DJ and Frankie opened The Power Plant. The Power Plant had its last party and shut its doors in 1986.

When the Power Plant closed, Frankie played for four months at Delirium in the United Kingdom. He also was the featured resident DJ at The World, and had numerous other residencies. He had a stint in New York, where he continued to immerse himself in producing, remixing and recording.

Frankie bought his first drum machine from Derrick May, who regularly made trips from Detroit to Chicago to see Knuckles at The Warehouse. He also had a musical partnership with Chicago artist Byron Walford aka 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.

Soon after that, producer Chip E. took Frankie under his wings and produced his first of many recordings, “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. {Larry Heard})

His debut album “Beyond the Mix (1991), released on Virgin Records, contained his biggest hit to date, “The Whistle Song.” Eight thousand copies of the album had sold by 2004. Frankie Knuckles continued to work as a remixer through the 1990’s and into the next decade, reworking tracks from Michael Jackson, Luther Vandross, Diana Ross, Eternal and Toni Braxton. In 1995, he released his second album titled “Welcome to the Real World” and by 2004, 13,000 copies had sold. In 2004, he released a 13-track album of original material titled “A New Reality,” which was critically well received. More recently, Frankie was regularly on the global club and festive circuit; converting kids who’d never heard of The Warehouse.

Many local and world-famous DJs got their starts from Frankie letting them DJ at his clubs. Here are few house testimonies from legendary, as well as average, everyday people:

Steve “Silk” Hurley (4-time Grammy nominated Producer/Remix Artist/DJ/ Entrepreneur):
“As I look up to you in heaven, I can honestly say that’s what I’ve always done. Looked up to you…as a big brother.

Who else but a big brother would welcome a young kid with open arms, as he brings his demos on “Radio Shack” Reel To Reel Tapes to the Powerplant…hot off the press from his bedroom studio in 1984 and 1985? And not only plays it once, but twice, to break it to his crowd.

Who else but a big brother would BUY that same kid’s records, even while he is at a peak of his own career, and play that record until the Vinyl wears out?

And who else but a big brother would support that kid, and countless other producers, regardless of what rung they are on in the “ladder of success”, all for the sake of inspiring the world with what he believes is great music?

As that ‘kid”, I would like to thank you for being a big brother to me in music. And I know that I speak for all of Chicago and the rest of the world when I say they we will miss you, and we will find ourselves looking up to you in heaven when we hear great music.

We Love you Frankie”

Irwin Larry “Chip E.” Eberhart II (Record Producer/DJ):
“I think of death differently than a lot of people. I realize that it’s part of everyone’s life. I’m never surprised when someone dies. Sad that I didn’t get to say goodbye, but usually happy for them…they don’t have any more worries. Life is hard work. I don’t run towards death or run away from it. I simply try to do the best I can for myself, family and friends while I’m above ground. I’ve already told those close to me that I want my passing ceremony to be a celebration with loud music and people enjoying themselves as they remember me. I don’t want to make people sad, not even in death. Frankie lived much longer than many of his close friends. He did good work on Earth, and will be remembered forever. In a way, he’s become immortal. I’m sure that with his success came much pain and suffering. I’m sure that he is at peace.”

Farley “Jackmaster” Funk (Record Producer/DJ):
“Frankie was an absolutely great guy to those who needed encouragement in the business and he stuck to his guns about the music, therefore becoming a solid foundation for the sound of music he loved.”

Jesse Saunders (DJ, music and film Producer/Remix Artist/Promoter/Entrepreneur):
“Without Frankie, there is no foundation…What Ronnie (Hardy), myself, Vince Lawrence, my brother Wayne Williams, Steve Hurley, Jamie Principle, Marshall Jefferson, Lil Louis and Farley “Jackmaster” Funk (to name a few) built was on the foundation of Frankie’s spirit and guidance. There are so many others that made important contributions to build our House in Chicago and subsequently the world, but had it not been for a fateful first night for each of us at The Warehouse, none of us would be who we are today! Frankie Knuckles’ spirit has touched every hemisphere and will live in #Housemusic !”

Teena Sloan-Hendricks (Entrepreneur/Founder of Soul Train Impact!):
“Frankie is what Don Cornelius hoped for all of us. He brought people together in love, peace and soul, with a combination of unity, acceptance and love of MUSIC.”

Dorado “Jockenstien” Evans (Chicago DJ/ Entrepreneur):
“In 1984, I was introduced to house. I began Djing and mixing as soon as I taught myself to do so. Shortly after my introduction to house, I began going out to house parties and clubs throughout the city. The Power Plant was one of the better clubs in the days. Frankie Knuckles was the owner and Resident DJ. He was kind enough to allow me opportunity to spin one night; WHAT A THRILL!!! His laid back, smooth house blends incorporated with the old school sounds of disco, was the reason I and many other people, from miles around migrated and flocked to 1015 N. Halsted St. at 12 midnight to party til noon Sunday; the best of times. Frankie has influenced many DJs around the world, including myself, and he will be truly missed. R.I.P”

Marcus “Dawg House” Balenton (Chicago DJ):
Without Frankie, there would be no house music. I think every “house head” DJ has a little Frankie in them. Thank you Godfather!”

Eric “DJ E” Miles (Chicago DJ):
“Frankie was a trailblazer, a gentleman and a classy DJ. His mixing skills evolved wonderfully and he was always a crowd pleaser! His sessions told stories and spoke volumes. I am saddened by this loss, but we will all eventually go the same route. Rest in peace my turntable brotha!”

Timothy “Midas ReTouch” Jackson (Internet DJ):
“Growing up in the 1980’s, on the Southside of Chi, house music was such a big part of our collective identities and lives. Hearing tracks now from Frankie brings back a flood of great memories the moment I hear them. No matter whether it was hearing a track played on WBMX, being at a party where he was spinning, or even seeing the posters on 79th and Stony or 87th and Stony advertising a party with Frankie, he was a HUGE part of the Chicago landscape and my younger years…and forever will be.”

Frankie loved Chicago as well, as you see here in his own words:

Frankie has had a major impact on the music industry and is considered a Boss. “Knuckles is, hands down, one of the dozen most important DJs of all time; one of the 50 Most Important People in EDM (electronic dance music),” according to this Rolling Stones magazine article

He collaborated with Jamie Principal and brought us instant classics like “Your Love” (1986); and “Baby Wants to Ride” (1987); his own “The Whistle Song” (1991); and remixes of Chaka Khan’s “Ain’t Nobody” (1989) and Sounds of Blackness’s “The Pressure” (1992)

This is his entire discography
• “Rain 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

• “Change” – Lisa Stansfield
• “Power Of Love/Love Power” – Luther Vandross
• “Left To My Own Devices” – Pet Shop Boys
• “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 Morales) – Michael Jackson
• “Thriller” (remixed by Knuckles and David Morales) – 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
• “Forever Came Today” – The Jackson 5 (Released On The Remix Suite)
• “Wrong” – Depeche Mode

He has also been the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions, including:

• 1997: Grammy Award for Remixer of the Year, Non-Classical
• 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 after Knuckles, where the old Warehouse once stood, on Jefferson Street between Jackson Boulevard and Madison Street. That stretch of street , called Frankie Knuckles Way, “was renamed when the city declares 25 August 2004 as Frankie Knuckles Day. The Illinois state senator who helped make it happen was Barack Obama.
• 2005: Knuckles was inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame for his achievements.

He and/or his works have appeared in media and popular culture, including:

• He was featured in the documentary films Maestro (2003), written and directed by Josell Ramos, and The UnUsual Suspects: Once upon a Time in House Music (2005), directed by Chip Eberhart aka Chip E.

• In October of 2004, “Your Love” with vocalist Jamie Principal, appeared in the videogame Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, playing on house music radio station, SF-UR.

I met him several times, but I never really knew Frankie Knuckles. Even so, he changed my life for the better and influenced me as a DJ. In 1979, I was a 12 year old DJ, and I as grew older I began assisting DJ Jockenstien. This opportunity gained me entrance into several nightclubs, posing as the DJ assistant. During my high school years, all of my friends were attending The Warehouse and later The Power Plant and The Box, if you could get in. This was achieved by going on 63rd and Halsted, here in Chicago, and purchasing a phony ID. We all had them, saying that we were 21 years old. It worked! Those days kept me, and several other children out of trouble and off of the streets. Frankie Knuckles and house music saved a generation or two!

Those experiences in The Warehouse were out of this world! I was seeing things that I had never ever saw before. There were young people, old people, Blacks, Whites, Hispanics, Asians, homosexuals, lesbians, transgendered, cross dressers, thugs, nerds as well as average day Joes and Jills. The thing about it though, was that everyone was getting along. No criticisms or anything out of the sort. Everyone was laughing and joking and dancing. People would share their cigarettes, drinks, etc. with you. It was always a “family” atmosphere and Frankie set the mood for that! To this day, we of the house community call each other family and treat one another accordingly. You can always count on being accepted and welcomed at a house party; wherever it is, whatever country.

Frankie’s style of mixing music has influenced me greatly. He has a smooth, bassline influenced groove with vocals that tell a story and send a positive message to the listening audience. I adopted that strategy and I based my own DJ style on that. If you have never heard Frankie Knuckles aka The Godfather of House spin, here’s a sample for you to groove to from a DJ set at The Boiler Room in NYC:

In conclusion, THE GODFATHER OF HOUSE has left the building. Although he is no longer with us, his spirit lives within all of us and his music and mixes will live on forever. Rest in peace Frankie…Rest in beats! Heaven is a House party now. “FRANKIEEEEEEE…YOU GO BOY!!!!”

Pierre A. Evans is a freelance writer of Entertainment, Music, Art, Culture, Fashion and Current Events, and previously for,,,, and, an author, singer/songwriter, actor, model, poet, dancer, and DJ. He is also the Owner of Pinnacle Entertainment Productions and the Owner/Publisher of GO BANG! Magazine. Follow him on Facebook @Pierre Andre Evans, Twitter @Playerre, and on Instagram @Pierre_Andre_Evans.

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