March 31st stood as a very sad day for house music lovers across the globe as the “Godfather of House Music” passed away. Francis Nicholls, also known as Frankie Knuckles, suddenly died in Chicago aged just 59. It is uncertain as to the circumstances surrounding the death, however his hometown paper, Chicago Tribune, reports it was due to complications due to his type 2 diabetes.
It was only the Saturday before his sudden passing that Frankie appeared at London’s Ministry of Sound event, brining joy to his fans one last time. During his many years of dedication to the music industry Knuckles became one of the favourite faces in his scene. The city of Chicago named part of a street and a day after Knuckles in 2004 for his role in House music, with his accomplishments also earning him a Grammy Award in 1997.
In his early years, Knuckles studied textile design in New York, and began working as a DJ, playing mainly disco, soul and R&R at the Continental Baths with his much loved childhood friend, Larry Levan.
Moving to Chicago in the late 1970’s, Knuckles was invited to play on a regular basis at the Warehouse club, which was opened in 1977. He continued to play here until he opened his very own club in Chicago, The Power Plant in 1982, and it is said that the style of music now known as ‘House’ was taken from a shortened version of ‘Knuckles Warehouse’ club.
Once Power Plant closed in 1987, Knuckles played for 4 months at Delirium in the UK, Chicago house DJ’s were in high demand and having a major success in the UK with this new genre of music, Knuckles carried on making his mark in the music industry. He also had a winning streak of gigs in New York, bringing more success to himself each time he played.
Over time Frankie Knuckles became a well-known face in the Manchester (UK) House scene, actually playing at the big Hacienda New Year’s party at The Albert Hall in 2013. Knuckles released well know remixes of chart songs that turned into club hits, tracks from names such as Michael Jackson, Luther Vandross, Toni Braxton and Lisa Stansfield.
Knuckles became an in-demand DJ at clubs across the globe, holding a fan base across the world. After his death Frankie Knuckles has returned to the Top 40 UK charts as fans pay tribute by buying one of his best-loved tracks, Your Love. Frankie’s last UK Top 40 was Whadda You Want (From Me) featuring Adveva, reaching number 36 in 1995. His most successful track, The Whistle Song, which stood at number 17 of 1991’s Top 20.
As well as his long and successful career in DJ-ing, Knuckles also popped up in two documentary films, Maestro (2003) and The Unusual Suspects: Once upon a time in house music (2005). As well as appearing in the video game ‘Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas’ in October 2004.
Frankie Knuckles has certainly left his mark in the music industry. As his fans pay tribute to him across the globe, we can be certain that his name will never be forgotten.