New documentary celebrates Frankie Knuckles and the birth of house music
“It’s always been underground, and it was always meant to be underground.”
These are the words of Chicago’s very own “Father of House Music” Marshall Jefferson in the new documentary Unsung: Frankie Knuckles and The Roots of House Music. While Jefferson may believe house music is meant to keep to its underground roots, thanks to the unparalleled influence of New York-born Frankie Knuckles, dance music has completely reshaped the global mainstream musical landscape.
Far from today’s scene including Ultra or EDC, the Unsung episode takes viewers back to where house music first began — in an underground community of primarily LGBQT and African American individuals all dancing to DJs mixing hip-hop with dance floor disco. Featuring interviews with the crème de la crème of the early dance scene, including Jesse Saunders, Farley Jackmaster Funk, Steve “Silk” Hurley, and Frankie Knuckles himself, the episode chronicles the groundbreaking career of Frankie Knuckles — from his first shows at Chicago’s iconic Paradise Garage, to winning the very first Mixer of the Year award at the Grammys, to having a stretch of Chicago street, entitled Frankie Knuckles Way, renamed after him thanks to then-Senator Barack Obama.
Throughout the 1980s, Knuckles, dubbed “The Godfather of House Music,” played a leading role in shaping the style, sound, and vision of dance music, a genre which would come to seemingly take over the world. As explained by house music “originator” Jesse Saunders, “He’s the greatest part of our genre… he’s the one where we get all our inspiration from.”
Beyond having a visceral influence on electronic music over three decades ago and still today, it is because of Knuckles the music industry recognizes house music as a legitimate genre.
The documentary is available to watch here.