Nile Rodgers and Pete Tong pay their respects to 'Godfather of House' Frankie Knuckles

The Grammy-winning DJ pioneered the Chicago dance music sound, which revolutionised club culture in the 80s

Musicians paid tribute to Frankie Knuckles, the producer hailed as the “Godfather of Chicago House music”, who has died, aged 59.

The Grammy-winning DJ pioneered the Chicago dance music sound, which revolutionised club culture in the 80s and became the preeminent influence on mainstream pop.

Knuckles reportedly died due to complications related to Type II Diabetes, having developed the disease during the mid-2000s.

One of the leading figures in dance music, who worked with Michael Jackson, Luther Vandross and Diana Ross, Knuckles was described as a “friend, colleague and a true pioneer” by Nile Rodgers, the Chic guitarist and Daft Punk collaborator.

David Morales, the American house music DJ and producer, who confirmed the news on Twitter, wrote: “I am devastated to write that my dear friend Frankie Knuckles has passed away today. Can't write any more than this at the moment. I’m sorry.”

Knuckles made his final appearance before his death in Chicago, at London's Ministry of Sound on 29 March. The club described him as “a legendary figure and pioneer of the house music revolution and without whom we wouldn’t exist” in a tweet.

BBC Radio 1's Pete Tong praised a “gentleman genius, groundbreaker, inspiration. Blessed to have worked with you”. Questlove, leader of hip-hop group The Roots, added: “He was the DJ that DJs aspired to be.”

Chuka Umunna, the Shadow Business Secretary and a house music fan, joined the tributes. “Very sad to hear of the death of a house music pioneer and legend, Frankie Knuckles. RIP,” he wrote.

Born Frankie Warren Knuckles Jr in the Bronx, New York City, his biggest “hit” was The Whistle Song in 1991. But Knuckles’ influence was not measured in chart positions – his 1984 track Your Love has been reworked by generations of musicians, providing the blueprint for hits by Candi Staton and Florence and the Machine.

After learning his DJ skills in New York, Knuckles moved to Chicago in the 1970s and pioneered a style of extending soul and R&B records by adding drum machine loops.

Knuckles said in 2011: “I would program different breakbeats and use them as segues between songs and additional beats. I had my own little piece of heaven right there.”

The spartan, electronic tracks were adopted by the gay and Latin American audience who populated the Warehouse club in Northern Chicago, where Knuckles played extended sets.

By the late 80s the Chicago house sound had exploded onto the UK charts and Knuckles became a hugely popular attraction at raves and dance festivals.

He produced the house anthem Tears with Robert Owens and his remixing skills for major stars, seeking to sprinkle underground club credibility on their songs, helped earn him a deal with Virgin Records.

In 2004, Chicago named a street after Knuckles where the old Warehouse once stood, and the then Illinois state senator, Barack Obama, helped to get the city of Chicago to declared 25 August "Frankie Knuckles Day".

Knuckles developed diabetes in the mid-2000s having already contracted the bone disease osteomyelitis after breaking several metatarsals in his right foot while snowboarding in Switzerland, in 2003. Against doctors orders, he continued to DJ and in July 2008, he had his foot amputated.

Paying tribute to Knuckles, the Chicago Tribune wrote: “He championed house music that wasn’t just about rhythm, but that embraced humanism and dignified struggle.

“It was in keeping with his belief that the dancefloor was a safe haven for the gay, African-American and Hispanic communities that first embraced him”.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Talent Manager / HR Manager - central London - £50,000

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Talent / Learning & Development Mana...

HR Manager (standalone) - London

Up to £40,000: Ashdown Group: Standalone HR Manager role for an SME business b...

HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350 - £400 per ...

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor