Tag Archives: house music

R.I.P. Frankie Knuckles

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Honestly, I feel like giving myself a knuckle sandwich for taking this long to pay my respects, but I gotta give it up to the late, great pioneer of Chicago house, Frankie Knuckles. Born Francis Nicholls in the Bronx, Knuckles first began DJ’ing in the 70’s alongside the legendary Larry Levan at the notoriously gay Continental Baths in New York City. The hybrid disco-bathhouse featured top notch entertainers and Frankie was no exception. Being at the right place at the right time certainly helped to cement his reputation as a pioneer in dance music. Arguably, disco helped to lay the foundation for house and Frankie was fortunate to be there live and direct, soaking up the sizzling influences of that era. After moving to Chicago in 1977, he began spinning at The Warehouse where he developed the style of music that has come to be known as “house.” His open-minded approach led him to experiment with combining elements of R&B with synths and a drum-machine to develop this rebelliously scintillating genre. It must have been exciting to be on the cutting edge of a new frontier as Frankie was at that time, along with fellow pioneers like Derrick May and Ron Hardy.

After his Chicago club, Power Plant, closed in 1987, Frankie headed off to the U.K. to play a residence at infamous house of rave, Delirium. Are you beginning to see a pattern emerging here? This man was definitely chosen to accomplish great things in the music world. I would give anything to be a fly on the wall witnessing the “Second Summer of Love” unfold, but Frankie was right up there in the mix. Respect.

Knuckles first grabbed my attention with “The Whistle Song” back in the 90’s. That track got heavy rotation and helped put him out into the mainstream. Frankie reached new heights in his career when he earned a 1997 Grammy award for Remixer of the Year, Non-Classical. A slew of remixes for noteworthy artists followed: Lisa Stansfield, Diana Ross, Toni Braxton and Michael Jackson, to name a few. And then, one of the greatest forms of recognition any artist could receive; a street renamed in his honour, “Frankie Knuckles Way” by the city of Chicago. To put further icing on the cake, August 25th 2004 was declared “Frankie Knuckles Day” by none other than Illinois senator, Barack Obama. It’s comforting to know that this openly gay, Afro-American DJ has received such tremendous respect and recognition for his abilities as opposed to his sexual orientation. A great blessing indeed, and a true testament to his hard-working, positive attitude and joyful approach to life.

Sadly, Frankie left us on March 31st, 2014 due to complications from Type II diabetes. Apparently he’d developed the condition after a skiing accident in which he’d fractured the metatarsals in his foot. He eventually ended up losing the leg, but still soldiered on like a true warrior. If anything, we should be happy for him. It might seem that he passed away prematurely, but I think he lived a full life, accomplishing so many wonderful feats and leaving musical treats to tantalize headz for generations to come. This raises the issue that we all have to face at some point: our own mortality. Most of electronic music’s pioneers are at advanced stages in their lives, and they will all leave in the coming decades. Once they’re gone, it will be interesting to see how EDM will continue to evolve. Will that soulful quality born from the early days still be present? Times change, people change and of course, the music will change. As long as there’s electricity, there will always be EDM. It is, however, important to note that consciousness affects sound, so the level of integrity is reliant upon where the majority focus their thoughts, for better or for worse.

Normally I don’t mess with politics, but kudos to The Obamas for remembering Frankie Knuckles in this letter from The White House:

ObamaFrankie
‘Nuff said!
Peace out, my fellow Ecstaticans. Take a moment to listen to “Your Love,” undoubtedly one of the greatest house tracks of all time has a smooth, chilled out ambience that is truly timeless.

Copyright © 2014 Frankie Diamond. All rights reserved. Excerpts of less than 200 words may be published to another site, including a link back to the original article. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety and posted to another site without the express permission of the author.

 

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Martha Wash: Queen of House

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Martha Wash

Martha Wash

When it comes to belting out powerhouse vocals, few can compare to the inimitable Martha Wash. This legendary diva has racked up a slew of chart-topping hits during a career spanning well over three decades. She is the lead vocalist on C+C Music Factory’s “Gonna Make You Sweat” (released 1991) which was a massive dancefloor hit. In addition, Martha provided lead vocals on Black Box’s landmark album, “Dreamland” (1990). Despite the phenomenal success of the aforementioned acts, there was one glaring omission from the spotlight: Martha Wash herself.

 

The Weather Girls with Martha Wash (l.) and Izora Armstead (r.)

The Weather Girls with Martha Wash (l.) and Izora Armstead (r.)

At that time, Ms. Wash was a much sought after session vocalist within the music industry. Her previous credits included a stint as back-up singer for disco sensation, Sylvester, and as the other half of the bodacious female duo, Two Tons o’ Fun, formed with the late Izora Armstead. They had scored a major hit with “It’s Raining Men” (1982), a dance floor and gay club classic before they disbanded in the late 80’s. Martha was subsequently tapped to do lead vocals for C+C and Black Box. However, she was not credited on the liner notes as the original vocalist. To add further insult to injury, Martha was not included in any of the live performances or music videos promoting the aforementioned acts from that period.

I remember when “Dreamland” took the airwaves by storm during the early 90’s. When “Everybody Everybody” first reached my nubile ears I was like, “Whoa – what’s this?” It was fresh yet soulfully slick, upbeat and ultimately radio friendly. Black Box had accomplished an enormous feat: bringing house music into the mainstream. The stylishly hip video featuring a tall, svelte, attractive sista caught my attention and that of millions of my peers, who were tuned into this new sensation. It received heavy rotation on Much Music and VH1, among other outlets. I thought, “She looks like a model AND she can sing like that? Damn…lucky!” It seemed Black Box had it made. More delectables followed: “I Don’t Know Anybody Else,” “Ride on Time,” “Open Your Eyes,” and “Strike It Up.” Fandom ignited. I bought both Dreamland and the remix c.d. of all the hits from that album. I never thought to question, “Hmmm….who’s really making the music?” I was sold on the image of the attractive sista and the songs themselves, accepting what I was being shown as factual.

A few years later, the proverbial shit hit the fan. The fallout was huge (no pun intended). Martha Wash emerged from the shadows to announce that she was the vocalist behind Black Box’s hits, as well as C+C Music Factory and Seduction (“You’re My One and Only True Love”). It came as a shock to yours truly to know that BB’s frontwoman was a French model who lipsynched her way through live performances and was featured on the cover of the album itself. The message: fat women aren’t pretty enough to be famous (unless they’re funny). Apparently, label execs had decided that Martha was too big to sell records, despite her earlier chart-topping success with The Weather Girls. They somehow managed to convince Martha that her image was “unmarketable” but her chops were solid gold. Gold that they so desperately needed minus the image of the magical goose. One can only imagine the immense emotional anguish Martha suffered, watching from the sidelines as the songs she provided vocals for became massive hits with a skinny model miming her parts while she remained ignored, forgotten.

Wash decided enough was enough and finally put her foot down. She took the labels to court and won, receiving royalties and proper credit for her contributions. As a result of her landmark case, legislation was enacted in the United States, making it mandatory for vocals to be credited on c.d.’s and music videos. At last, Martha had reclaimed her right to be respected not only as a talented singer, but as a human being. Normally, this kind of experience would crush a person with less moxie, but not Martha. She had the absolute audacity, the utter nerve to demand that as a fat woman with formidable talent, nobody could make her invisible any longer.

Ugliness ensued. Remarks were made to the effect that many actually sympathized with the labels’ decision to exclude Martha’s image from their marketing. “Yeah, I can understand why they did that; she’s too big,” was an oft heard sentiment. There was no question that sizewise, Martha Wash was big. But did that give the parties involved the right to discredit her involvement as a vocalist? Hell no! During the scandal that followed, I saw for the first time, pictures of Martha Wash.  Personally I thought that although she was plus size, she was very pretty. I could not understand why they would not want to use her image. She wasn’t a size 4 but she was far from hideous. This debacle proved to be an eye opener. I realized that meanness didn’t stop at high school, but continued far beyond it. The people that were grown up, that should know better, really didn’t. If they could misrepresent a singer on their albums and videos, what else were they capable of? Mind you, this incident occurred during the post-Milli Vanilli period. As a result of that scandal, the general public became aware that on occasion, window dressing tactics were covertly employed in the music biz, all in the name of aesthetics. Subsequently, this paved the way for Wash’s case to be recognized as an indication of serious flaws within the system that needed to be rectified, in order to safeguard the integrity of recording artists.

To her credit, Martha recovered, dignity intact, and went on to record number 1 hits under her name such as, “Carry On” and “Give It to You” (1993). The unstoppable soul diva created her own label, Purple Rose, in 2005. She is very active as a performer within the gay community, having supported numerous events and causes. This can be interpreted as Martha’s way of showing gratitude for all the love and support she has received through her many ups and downs. Just as many gays refuse to accept being marginalized about who they are, so did Martha. Her rich, booming voice has graced dance floors around the globe, and that is a testament to her triumph over adversity.

The good news is that attitudes towards plus size women in the music industry are changing, with the success of vocalists like Susan Boyle, Jennifer Hudson and Adele. Record honchos are realizing that at the end of the day, talent matters more than dress size. Consumers are informing them of this fact by supporting artists that, in many instances, resemble them. Any business that ignores this upward trend is guaranteed to miss out – bigtime.

Perhaps Martha Wash’s story serves to exemplify the importance of demanding respect for one’s abilities, in a world that equates thinness with talent and beauty. It is also an example of how we sometimes allow others to dishonour us in order to gain acceptance. Self-negation might seem rewarding in the short term, but often comes at high personal cost in the long run. By remaining silent about exploitation, we give others permission to continue taking advantage of us. Recognizing your own self-worth is key to reclaiming your power. Then and only then can we attain the rewards we so richly deserve. As a true survivor, Martha said it best in “Carry On”:

I stand alone in the eye of the storm

Pressures  all around, tryin’ to wear me down

But I hold tight to what I know is right

Still can hear the way, mamma used to say

Never, never let your spirit bend

Never give in, to the end I carry on.

Copyright © 2012 Frankie Diamond. All rights reserved. Excerpts of less than 200 words may be published to another site, including a link back to the original article. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety and posted to another site without the express permission of the author.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Four x Two @ Footwork

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Four x Two at Footwork was fun fun FUN! The most fun I’ve ever had at Footowork thus far. With DJs like Deko-ze and Iron Mike on the bill, how could anything go wrong? When those vetz start dropping ol skool  bombs like acid unicorn elves it’s over. I’m really looking forward to Honey Dijon’s gig on April 14th with Baby Joel and Sno-men. Definitely not one to be missed!

Copyright © 2012 Frankie Diamond. All rights reserved. Excerpts of less than 200 words may be published to another site, including a link back to the original article. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety and posted to another site without the express permission of the author.

Frankenräver’s Top 10 House Playlist

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On a frigid Saturday afternoon, I thought it would be great to share my personal playlist with you all. A treasure trove of 90’s gems that rocked da floor (& the airwaves) back in the day. Including classic French house by the likes of Bob Sinclar & Daft Punk balanced out with the soulful grooves of Roy Davis Jr., Lil Louis Vega and more. Judging from the comments on Youtube, nuff people are pining for tracks of this calibre to come ’round again. Truth be told, the 90’s was an era that can never be duplicated; much like the 60’s, but we could at least listen & learn. Well, I’m about to go sniff some vinyl…copy paste enjoy!

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL105A9109071339EA