I wish that I had a story of how I got to share the booth with him, how he gave me advice and encouraged me to continue as a DJ, but I don't.
The closes I ever came to him was showing up early at Soundfactory Bar on West 21st Street one Friday back in 1993. I was still new to The Big Apple and did not know that the club people didn't go out until after midnight. So, there were probably five orsix6 people who arrived early like me. I was in heaven because I was about to experience one of the masters behind the turntables. Til this day I still hold Frankie, David Morales and Satoshi Tomiie as the best DJs I have ever heard live. Not only did they have skills in mixing and programming, they also knew how to mix in keys. Clocking where the mix began and ended was nearly impossible. Today's audiences don't have that kind of love of music like a true Frankie Knuckles fan.
Today is April 1st….April Fool's Day. I keep thinking that I am going to get a phone call and one of my DJ friends will say "April's Fools, he's not dead!" But as the day has faded into another night, the reality of a major figure in the evolution of House Music has left us. I knew of his health issues with diabetes. I myself have type 2 diabetes as well. When DJ David Camacho died due to complication of diabetes I decided to start taking better care of myself.
As DJs, our jobs are not as physical as they used to be. Used to be you had to lug crates of record and CD bags, but with the new laptop technologies there's very little to carry. So, it is no wonder that the disease could and would be deadly for a DJ.
Everything that we know about the transition from Disco to House is tied to this man. The innovations that he and his best friend, Larry Levan created in mixing and remixing became the staple in what would become Dance Music today. Although I really didn't learn about him until I moved to New York City the first five years in The Big Apple. I was a sponge. Soaking up all the history and knowledge I could. I would scrape together my last pennies to go hear the legends. Frankie, Junior Vasquez, Danny Tenaglia, Tedd Patterson, Johnny Dynell, Tennessee, and Troy Parrish gave me my life back in those days.
I had missed the days of The Garage because I didn't arrive until 1992, but many of the fans I gained in the West Village when I worked at The Hangar on Christopher Street said that I reminded them of Larry Levan. I definitely took that as a compliment. Frankie spoke very highly of him in the documentary about Mel Cheron called "The Godfather of Disco". And like when Mel died another piece of our history dies with Frankie. I remember when Ozzy Davis died I thought…"Who is gonna continue his work?" The top names on the scene today probably know who Frankie was but have no real concept of how important he was to what we do in the DJ booth.
When I think of Frankie, I think of lush productions and strings. I think of that happy joy that House Music can bring. I think of the skip and hop of the beats that would lead you to rejoice. I think of the tears that he could bring to your eyes by capturing the moment. Who's gonna do that now? Kids todays aren't enjoying the music the way we did back in the day. How could they? There are too many distraction with taking selfless and texting while on the floor.
Do the kids of today even sweat like we did? Do they know what it is to stay on the dance floor from 11 PM until 4 AM and the only time you left it was if you had to to the restroom or get a drink. These days the kids get bored after two or three songs. They will never know what it is like to listen to Mr. Knuckles playing "The Whistle Song" at 6 AM and the sun is peeking from under the club doors. They will never know anything about that.
Sad, because those experiences were golden. Those were real moments of community and harmony. Where gay, straight, black, white, yellow, jews and gentiles danced with abandonment and without a care. I'm sad that this slice of club life is no more. If only we could slow things down and realize that "It Gets Hard Sometimes" but it will all "Workout".
The list of artists and producers that he worked with and influenced is too long to mention. We all mourn in our own way. Me, I have to do a mix that reminds me of the brilliance of the person I am missing. So, like I did last year like I did when I heard that Peter Rauhofer had passed I sat down and dug through my crates and pulled out some gems and I'd like to share them with you.