Frankie Knuckles, “Godfather” of House Music, Dead at 59

Frankie Knuckles
 Raymond Boyd/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Goodbye to the "godfather." Frankie Knuckles, beloved DJ and house music mastermind, died Monday, March 31, at the age of 59.

The Chicago resident's death was confirmed by Knuckles' longtime business partner Frederick Dunson to the Chicago Tribune. According to Dunson, Knuckles "died unexpectedly" at home Monday afternoon.

Bronx-born Frankie Warren Knuckles Jr. first honed his DJ skills in NYC, eventually moving to Chicago in the late '70s as the disco scene was dying down. Along with a group of house music innovators, Knuckles went on to become a hero overseas in Europe's rave-oriented club scene.

Also a producer, Knuckles recorded house versions of Jamie Principle's "Your Love" and "Baby Wants to Ride." He co-founded Def Mix Productions with DJ David Morales, and eventually went on to work with some of the music industry's biggest stars, including Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Depeche Mode, and Diana Ross.

Morales, along with Knuckles' successors, mourned his passing Monday. "I am devastated to write that my dear friend Frankie Knuckles has passed away today," Morales wrote. "Can't write anymore than this at the moment. I'm sorry."

Chicago DJ Vince Lawrence wrote on his Facebook page, "A legend has fallen. All hail Frankie Knuckles an inspiration to us all."

Knuckles once told the Tribune in an interview why he championed house music. He felt as if the dance floor was a "safe haven" for the communities — African-American, gay, and Hispanic — that first welcomed him in the '70s and '80s. "God has a place on the dance floor," Knuckles reflected to the paper. "We wouldn't have all the things we have if it wasn't for God. We wouldn't have the one thing that keeps us sane — music."

"It's the one thing that calms people down."

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