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It ain't easy being you
Struggling everyday, searching for the truth
I know it’s hard sometimes trying to find a friend
Someone you can trust who will be there 'til the end
- "It's Hard Sometimes"
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Frankie Knuckles was an African-American DJ and record producer known for his role in developing and popularizing House Music. Lauded as "The Godfather of House Music", he was born Francis Warren Nicholls, Jr. on January 18, 1955, in the Bronx borough of New York City, he would study art and costume design before taking his first job as a DJ in 1971. Several years later, he hooked up with childhood friend Larry Levan and the two began DJing at New York disco clubs such as the Gallery and the Continental Baths. Levan left, to set up his own club, the Soho Place and Knuckles continued on until the Continental Baths was closed. A group of entrepreneurs initially approached Levan about becoming the DJ at a club they were starting in Chicago and, instead of abandoning the interest in his own club, he declined but suggested his friend Frankie Knuckles.

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Knuckles moved to Chicago in 1977 and began spinning vinyl at the Warehouse, spinning a mixture of disco classics, obscure soul and European synth-disco records in front of a crowd unused to the his style, which included beat-mixing and the addition of percussion fills (from a separate turntable) to liven the sound of the records he spun. And while Ron Hardy was entrancing a largely white, middle-class uptown crowd at the Music Box, Knuckles introduced the sound to many of the Southside producers through his newly started club, the Power Plant. Many of whom made waves during the '80s, such as Marshall Jefferson, Larry Heard and Steve "Silk" Hurley.

Frankie Knuckles also began recording as well, debuting with several singles released on Trax Records. Such seminal tracks as "Waiting on my Angel", "Baby Wants to Ride", "You Got the Love", and "Your Love" (almost all of which having a sizeable degree of influence from vocalist Jamie Principle) were among the most noted tracks released in the Chicago house explosion of the mid-'80s. Knuckles also recorded for Danica ("Let the Music Use You") and worked with younger producers like Marshall Jefferson as well as vocalist Robert Owens, who would later become the vocalist for seminal house group, Fingers Inc.. Despite this (or perhaps because of this), as Chicago house began spreading worldwide during 1986-1987, though, Knuckles returned to New York. He formed Def Mix Productions with David Morales (another noted producer within house music) and began working on house remixs for the biggest pop stars of the '80s and '90s, including Michael Jackson, Chaka Khan and Diana Ross.

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Despite the popularity of house in the international arena, Knuckles wouldn't record a full length record until Virgin signed him to an artist contract in 1991 and released his debut album Beyond the Mix. The singles "The Whistle Song," "Rainfalls," and "Workout" would hit the dance charts, though the album failed to really find a place with pop or R&B fans. Knuckles continued to produce singles and remix tracks, while his second album, Welcome to the Real World, was released four years later. In 2000, the same year he was chosen to mix the first edition of Azuli's Choice: A Collection of Classics series, he would break his ankle while snowboarding. And although he wasn't as active as he was in his heyday, his critical role in the development of house music was acknowledged when, in 2004, a stretch of Chicago's Jefferson Street, near the site of the former Warehouse, was renamed Frankie Knuckles Way. A year later, he was inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame with the likes of Quincy Jones, Sylvester, Chic and François Kevorkian. A bone disease worsened by diabetes led to the amputation of Knuckles' ankle in 2008. Knuckles continued to DJ globally and played clubs and festivals in front of audiences filled with dancers born years after he helped create and develop his genre. He unexpectedly passed away at home on March 31, 2014.

Discography

  • Beyond the Mix (1991)
  • Welcome to the Real World (1995)

Notable Songs

  • "It's A Cold World"
  • "Your Love"
  • "Baby Wants to Ride"
  • "You Got the Love"
  • "Waiting on my Angel"
  • "Let the Music Use You"
  • "Children of the Night"
  • "Tears"
  • "The Whistle Song"
  • "It's Hard Sometimes"
  • "Rainfalls"

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