7 Of The Best: Frankie Knuckles

Clash salutes a true house pioneer...
Frankie Knuckles

Unlike the names denoting most musical genres, house has a clear, distinct meaning.

It comes from the Warehouse - the nightclub which Frankie Knuckles made his own, carving out a new identity amidst the collapsing ruins of the disco movement.

Taking things underground, the producer utilised whatever tools were available to him to make the crowd move. A dearth of new tracks to fill the club meant that Knuckles began experimenting with his own, stripped-back re-edits, inserting breakbeats as he saw fit.

Later employing Roland drum machines to sit underneath his sets, Knuckles' haphazard experiments would craft shocking new sounds, which would eventually settle into the global language known as house.

April 1st brought news of the producer's death, aged 59. Quickly, his greatest hit 'Your Love' was circulating in tribute. Yet across his four-decade career Knuckles stood for so much more than that. He was perhaps the only producer to have won a Grammy award and have a street in Chicago named after him. His career, his output, and his vision is unlikely to ever be replicated.

Here's 7 Of The Best from the Knuckles catalogue.

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Frankie Knuckles - 'The Whistle Song'
'The Whistle Song' has this powerful knack of taking you back to the very first time you heard it. Memories of what dancefloor you were on, who you were with, the time of morning, all become vivid and heart racing. It’s one of the special few dance anthems to have that physical hold on people. RIP Frankie Knuckles. Bridie Brinson

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Frankie Knuckles - 'Keep On Movin''
If Frankie Knuckles is aptly described as godfather of house, then 'Keep On Movin'' - in all its tropical, summery glory - was one of his most worthy godchildren. Blessed by vocalist Nicki Richards, it came at a time when Frankie was torso deep in re-works for the likes of Michael Jackson and Toni Braxton. Yet, through the cocktail of bubbling bass and Latin guitar flutters, this track stood perfectly on its own two feet. Errol Anderson

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Michael Jackson - 'You Are Not Alone' (Frankie Knuckles Remix)
Before the age of social media, Knuckles earned his reputation one night, one fan at time. He created the backdrop, the soundtrack, the escape one needed to deal with the struggles of growing up. Knuckles bonded Chicago's musical identity to that of house and, because of his dedication to music, he quickly gained popularity as producer for everyone from Lisa Stansfield to Michael Jackson. The Frankie Knuckles remix of Jackson's 'You are Not Alone' easily sits in my top 10 remixes of all time. Jenna Aranda

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Frankie Knuckles - 'Baby Wants To Ride'
'Your Love' has been largely stripped of its power through over-use, with that Florence + The Machine cover turning it into a karaoke classic. However, we sincerely doubt anyone will be singing this down your local - unless your local is, in fact, the seediest, most leather-bound joint on the planet. Leaving nothing to the imagination, this is stripped down, ultra-erotic dance music - house as disco's revenge, after all. Robin Murray

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Frankie Knuckles - 'Tears'
Knuckles' 1989 release 'Tears' seems like an appropriate choice to encapsulate both his classic, vocal-driven house sound that has been so instrumental in shaping the landscape of electronic music, and the deep sadness felt at the passing of a true hero of our time. Freya van Lessen

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Lil Louis - 'Fable' (Frankie Knuckles Director's Cut Classic Club Mix)
Best known as an iconoclastic producer, Knuckles was also an expert at re-working others' material. In his earliest years, this meant literally using a razor blade and glue to craft edits via magnetic tape, while more modern productions saw Knuckles adapting to the latest technology. 'Fable' finds him crossing swords with fellow house pioneer Lil Louis, and the results are sheer, frothy Chicago fun. Just the sort of thing to spark a revolution, then... Robin Murray

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Whitney Houston - 'Million Dollar Bill' (Frankie Knuckles Director's Cut Signature Dub) 
The word 'legend' is perhaps overused these days, but here we have two late artists where you wouldn’t think twice about applying that term. A more recent offering from the house pioneer, this 2009 remix injected some Chicago grooves into Whitney's classic R&B number. While it's yet another hackneyed phrase in the description of house music, 'euphoric' applies itself with absolute ease to this work. A guaranteed floor pleaser, it's now sure to get eyes moist with reverence to the two greats. Felicity Martin

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