DJ and fellow Chicagoan Kaskade remembers the man who “built the foundation” of EDM.
I discovered Frankie Knuckles at age 15 when I was living in Chicago. It was around 1984 or 1985, and house music was really cutting its teeth. I had started going to these juke bars and teen bars, one of which was Medusa’s, where Frankie would spin on Friday nights. He was the guy bringing in all this brand-new music.
Today, it’s easy for us to look back 30 years and say, “Oh, that’s cool,” but Frankie really was out on a limb — playing something so different and fresh and always treading new territory. He exemplified everything that was happening in Chicago at the time — he was the center of that universe. He was house music. He built the foundation. That’s what turned me on to that sound — Frankie doing that party. It was so different than anything I’d heard before, and it inspired me to start creating my own music.
It’s impossible to overstate his impact on music today, especially with guys like Disclosure and Duke Dumont at the top of their games. It has truly come full circle, which must have brought a smile to Frankie’s face. What we hear now is so close to his sound of 20-plus years ago. Listen to his old records, like “The Whistle Song,” and if you did a quick edit, they could easily be on a Disclosure album. Those guys were probably referencing Frankie’s records.
Sadly, I don’t think a lot of people know his legacy, but I can tell you that, as a DJ, he was flawless. As house became more accepted, it was tricky for some people to take risks and create something magical, but not Frankie — it was always special. He was the godfather of that sound, but more importantly he was a cool, fun guy who always had this big grin on his face. That’s how I imagine him — behind the decks, playing phenomenal music and smiling.