Fans pack the house to remember Knuckles

Written By BY TINA SFONDELES Staff Reporter Posted: 04/04/2014, 05:12pm
Array DJ Wayne Williams at "Wired Friday's" at the Cultural Center on Friday, where people wanted to honor Frankie Knuckles, who died this week. | Brian Jackson/Sun-Times4 | Brian Jackson/Sun-Times

The city on Friday dedicated a mid-day dance party to “The Godfather of House Music.”

It wasn’t the first time beats thumped through the walls of the Chicago Cultural Center. But Friday was a bit different.

House music fans, many of whom were lifelong Frankie Knuckles fans, took their lunch hour to honor the man who played a pivotal role in creating the house music scene — a place where disco, electronic sound, soul and synth could all come together.

Knuckles died Monday in Chicago at age 59 from complications involving his struggle with diabetes.

The city says it’s planning a larger event to honor the influential DJ, but decided to dedicate its Wired Friday series of mid-day dance parties as a way for fans to grieve a musical legend.

“House music makes me happy. It makes me dance,” Genell Staples, 47, of Lincoln Park said while dancing to DJ Maurice Joshua, one of many DJs influenced by Knuckles. “Whatever I’ve got going on, it makes me dance. I love it.”

Joshua often urged the crowd on: “Anybody remember [Knuckle’s songs] ‘Rain Falls’? Anybody remember ‘Your Love’?” the DJ asked to cheers.

Tourists came in from Michigan Avenue to hear the music, and watch the crowd dance in the room transformed into a strobe-lit dance club. Kids danced in the back, and cultural center security guards couldn’t help but smile, some even stopping to bust a move.

Deborah Thompson, a CTA bus operator from Wicker Park, said she needed to say goodbye to a man who made music that’s been a big part of her life.

“I’m here to pay my respects,” Thompson, 38, said. She called herself a “lifelong” fan, like many in the crowd.

Tranese Walker stood in the back of the room, watching the party: “I’m 40 years old and I’ve been listening to Frankie since I was in high school,” Walker said. “I was at the party in the park when they had a street named after him and everything.”

A section of Jefferson Street is designated Frankie Knuckles Way by the Warehouse, a club where he was a DJ between 1977 and 1982.

Email: tsfondeles@suntimes.com

Twitter: @TinaSfon

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