House-Music Legend Frankie Knuckles Dead at 59

DJ Frankie Knuckles
Frankie Knuckles. Photo: Claire Greenway/Getty Images

Dance-music pioneer Frankie Knuckles died yesterday due to complications from type 2 diabetes. Born Francis Nicholls in the Bronx in 1955, Knuckles would go on to become the “Godfather of House Music.” After spending the early ‘70s DJing disco clubs in New York, Knuckles moved to Chicago in 1977 to be the primary DJ for The Warehouse. His legendary sets included edits and remixes of a wide variety of music from disco to synth to R&B to post-punk. The story goes, it became so popular that people would start asking for “house” music at record stores, short for the name of the club he played at.

By the mid-’80s, he was working at a club called Power Plant, and began working on original recordings with singer Jamie Principle, like 1986’s “Your Love.” In 1991, Knuckles released his debut album, Beyond the Mix, which included one of his biggest hits, “The Whistle Song.” In the ‘90s, Knuckles made a number of well-known remixes using a signature style of basically building the track again from scratch, even getting artists like Michael Jackson to redo vocals. 

Knuckles’s output slowed down in the early 2000s as a result of health problems and disinterest in his style of traditional house music. That changed in 2008, the same year he had his foot amputated, when he released an acclaimed remix of Hercules and Love Affair’s “Blind.” Knuckles spent the last few years of his life touring and DJing at clubs and festivals around the world. Watch the Boiler Room set from April of last year below and see a man still at the height of his DJing powers.

House-Music Legend Frankie Knuckles Dead at 59