Frankie Knuckles, iconic Chicago DJ, dies at 59

The late Frankie Knuckles is pictured here performing during the 2013 Wavefront Music Festival at Montrose Beach last summer. (Credit: Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images)
The late Frankie Knuckles is pictured here performing during the 2013 Wavefront Music Festival at Montrose Beach last summer. (Credit: Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images)

Frankie Knuckles, the pioneering “Godfather of House,” who undisputedly ushered in a new era of electronic dance music and underground club culture around the world, died on Monday. He was 59.

The Bronx native, born Francis Nicholls, made his mark in the music industry when he left New York in the 1970s for a fateful opportunity as resident DJ at a then-unknown nightclub in Chicago called The Warehouse. It set the stage for Knuckles’ influential decade-spanning career.

Social media lit up Tuesday with tributes filling Twitter and Facebook for the Grammy-winning producer and remixer. “Jesus man … Frankie Knuckles was so under-appreciated. He was the DJ that DJs aspired to be,” tweeted Questlove Jenkins of The Roots.

DJ/producer David Morales, who joined forces with Knuckles when he returned to New York in the late 1980s and launched Def Mix Productions, also took to Twitter saying, “I am devastated to write that my dear friend Frankie Knuckles has passed away … Can’t write anymore at this moment. I’m sorry.”

Knuckles distinguished himself as an aural connoisseur who understood what made people move to a different beat, working his magic on original productions like his classic, “The Whistle Song,” and remixes for artists such as Chaka Khan, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and more. The DJ had recently played London’s Ministry of Sound before returning to the U.S.


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