House Music: A Genre Becomes a Movement

Disco Demolition Night Stadium by Paul NatkinGROOVE Magazin Berlin

Disco Demolition Night: Born Out of Destruction  

In 1979, up to 60,000 rock fans gathered in Comiskey Park in Chicago to express their hate for the disco genre implied to be African American. The aggressive, drunk protests forced disco back underground where it evolved into house music.     

Disco Demolition Night Steve Dahl by Paul NatkinGROOVE Magazin Berlin

House Music Is Black Music  

From the very beginning, house has been a dedicated black sound directed against oppression, such as against radio moderator Steve Dahl, who brought Disco Demolition Night to life and spurred the public on to demolish all the disco records that were brought in.   

Frankie Knuckles by Groove ArchiveGROOVE Magazin Berlin

Frankie Knuckles: The Godfather of House      

Frankie Knuckles' nickname was no accident. The native New Yorker played in the Chicago Warehouse club from 1977 and, out of an unorthodox style mix of disco, funk, and other types of dance music, created the blueprints for a sound that now goes by the name of house. 

The Warehouse        

The Chicago club is often described as eponymous for the whole genre. Accordingly, house is the sound that was played in the Warehouse, particularly during Frankie Knuckles' sets. However, some witnesses to the scene in no way attest to this version of events.             

Frankie Knuckles by Groove ArchiveGROOVE Magazin Berlin

From the Warehouse to the Power Plant  

In 1982, Knuckles left the Warehouse due to creative differences and opened his own club, the Power Plant, soon after, which lasted until 1986 before hip-hop house increasingly lost its status as a cultural phenomenon.  

Ron Hardy Music Box Chicago by Groove ArchiveGROOVE Magazin Berlin

The Next Chapter: Ron Hardy and the Music Box     

Ron Hardy is known as the DJ who was more or less diametrically opposed to Frankie Knuckles' house vision. The resident DJ of the immediate Warehouse successor the Music Box had a sound that was harder, faster, and more percussive—it was excessive, and the incredibly loud sound system helped. 

Warehouse Party by Frankie Knuckles Foundation by Frankie Knuckles FoundationGROOVE Magazin Berlin

However, this excessiveness, stirred up by Ron Hardy and Frankie Knuckles for example, wasn't just an end in itself in the Music Box, Warehouse, and other house clubs. These clubs acted as indispensable safe havens for marginalized groups—especially black and gay people.

Larry Levan by Groove ArchiveGROOVE Magazin Berlin

The Second Epicenter: Larry Levan and Paradise Garage    

House doesn't just have its roots in Chicago. In New York as well the genre grew rapidly in parallel to the Windy City. In particular, Larry Levan and the legendary club Paradise Garage where he stood behind the decks from 1977 to 1987 were responsible for this growth.   

Tony Humphries by Groove ArchiveGROOVE Magazin Berlin

Tony Humphries played here with a stick headphone. This was reminiscent of the early years of DJing in the disco era of the 1970s when professional headphones still didn't exist and DJs made do with telephone receivers. Many house DJs kept this tradition alive.

Lil Louis by Groove ArchiveGROOVE Magazin Berlin

The Essence of House    

Alongside a moderate four-to-the-floor beat, luxurious piano sounds, and spiritual empowerment, house music is last but not least about sex. No producer expressed it better in a track than Lil' Louis who achieved a breakthrough in 1989 with French Kiss.  

DJ Pierre by Groove ArchiveGROOVE Magazin Berlin

The Next Innovation       

In 1987, Chicago trio Phuture—pictured here: DJ Pierre—released the single Acid Tracks which would pave the way for the acid house subgenre. Especially in the United Kingdom, the sound rang in a new era of dance music. 

Marshall Jefferson by Groove ArchiveGROOVE Magazin Berlin

At the Interface: Marshall Jefferson 

Marshall Jefferson further developed house with resounding productions, including I've Lost Control as Sleezy D and the iridescent piano house hymn Move Your Body. As a producer he was involved in Phuture's Acid Tracks.             

Marshall Jefferson Zeitgeschichten 1 by Groove ArchiveGROOVE Magazin Berlin

"A bassline, a piano, and drums. It's not a lot, but it has to be said: I had the basslines down," said Jefferson in a recent interview with Groove in 2017. He also vented about the democratization of music production at the time.       

Roland 303 on the cover of Groove #91 by Groove MagazinGROOVE Magazin Berlin

Musical Progress—Imported From Japan: The TB-303   

The handheld equipment came out on the market as early as 1981 and ended up being a flop at first. Its tweeting on Acid Tracks allowed Ron Hardy years later to make the Record Box go wild after playing the track four times, according to legend.    

Phuture 303 on the cover of Groove in 1996 by Groove MagazinGROOVE Magazin Berlin

No House Without Machine Fetish      

It's not just Phuture's successor collective that expressed its appreciation for Roland's iconic synthesizer with the added 303 in its name. Without him and the experimenters from Chicago, acid would simply never have happened, and house would never have got its sharp corners and edges.

Larry Heard in Groove Magazin (1996) by Groove ArchiveGROOVE Magazin Berlin

The Fine-Tuning: Larry Heard    

In contrast, artists like Larry Heard who was also a regular guest at Knuckles' Power Plant are responsible for deep house sounding like what it sounds like today. Tracks like Can You Feel it, Bring Down The Walls, and Washing Machine are milestones of the genre.  

Larry Heard by Nick Haylor/ Groove ArchivGROOVE Magazin Berlin

House Legends for Decades  

Back in 1983, Heard started his solo career which carries on to this day. Over the decades he has used various pseudonyms, and was most active under his real name and as Mr. Fingers. He overwhelmingly stands for a groovy, soulful, absolutely cathartic version of house.

Kerri Chandler by Groove ArchiveGROOVE Magazin Berlin

Deep House From the East Coast: Kerri Chandler     

Kerri Chandler was born in New Jersey in 1969 and is living proof that the edges of deep house don't just have to be sharp in Chicago. He was particularly influenced by the music from the New York underground, creating hymns such as Rain and Mommy What's A Record. 

Moodymann on the Cover of GROOVE No 175 from 2018 by Groove ArchiveGROOVE Magazin Berlin

Not Just a Chicago Thing      

Kenny Dixon Jr. alias Moodymann masterfully breaks up the traditional division between Chicago house and Detroit techno. From the mid 1990s the Detroit resident produced house tracks that stood out from the clean-cut competition from Chicago with distinctive vocals and a harsh groove.

Honey Dijon by Florian HetzGROOVE Magazin Berlin

Traditions of House    

DJs like Honey Dijon defend the spirit of house music in the contemporary dance music circus. This underwent a whitewashing process over the last few decades which commercialized the genre to an even greater extent and snatched it away from the queer and black communities where it originated from.

Credits: Story

Author: Maximilian Fritz
Interview with Marshall Jefferson: Michael Leuffen

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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