On March 31, 2014 our heart was broken. Frankie Knuckles, the Godfather of House and one of the nicest men to walk the earth, left us. He was 59, and he passed way too soon.
In the weeks leading up to the first anniversary of the Godfather’s passing, I thought about how best to pay tribute to this amazing man, one who I had the pleasure of interviewing many times over the years. How do you pay homage a DJ/producer giant who toured the world for much of his life, bringing joy to so many people at clubs and festivals? The answer was right in front of me: You celebrate his eternal spirit by honoring the legacy of the music.
Enter Cevin Fisher, the famed NYC house DJ/producer. Back when I was running Mixer magazine, I cajoled Cevin into mixing United DJs Of America Volume 11. It was Cevin’s first mix CD — a deep session of soulful, energetic house that still holds its weight since its release in 1999. Since Cevin took a few musical cues from Frankie, I reached out and put forth the idea of him creating a commemorative DJ mix of Frankie’s seminal tracks. Cevin immediately and enthusiastically agreed.
“I honestly felt like Frankie was in the room with me when I did the mix…. At some point the sadness turned to happiness. Frankie’s music does what music is supposed to do: It’s beautiful music, so when I hear a song by Frankie now, I just smile.”
“I was in the studio when I logged into Facebook and saw the news,” Cevin remembers of that sad day one year ago. “I was devastated. I just sat at the computer and looked at all of the messages about Frankie. I felt so bad for David Morales, Judy, Hector Romero and the whole Def Mix crew, because I knew this was a tough loss for them as well as for the whole music scene, especially for the dance music community.”
“Frankie was a huge inspiration to me and definitely a big influence,” Cevin continues. “Frankie’s music and DJing style inspired me in a soulful, gospel, hands-in-the-air shouting kinda way and his productions were always crisp and polished. There are very few DJs where I can tell who it is playing before I even see them, and Frankie was that kind of DJ. He was 100 percent unique and his music will live on forever.”
Listen to Cevin’s brilliant tribute featuring classic Frankie Knuckles productions and remixes including “The Whistle Song” and “Tears.”
As the hashtag says, #FKAlways.
Artwork created by Christian J Petersen of I Want You Studio.
Did you ever meet Frankie? If so, can you recall any of your interactions?
Cevin Fisher: Yes, I had the pleasure of meeting Frankie. I used to see him quite often at Sound Factory Bar in New York City. At the time I was working with Dave Shaw from Columbia/Warner Bros. and David Darlington from Bass Hit Studios. My fondest memory was when David Shaw and I walked into the DJ booth at Sound Factory Bar and gave Frankie a copy of Chaka Khan’s “Love You All My Lifetime” remix on acetate, and I remember Frankie dropping the needle on the track and he absolutely loved it! So much so that he must’ve played it for 30 minutes [laughs] over and over again and throughout the night. He really did know how to break a record, and as I watched him, I was totally blown away. He was so supportive, and whenever we would bring him our latest mixes, he would have a quick listen in his headphones and before you knew it, bam! He would drop it on the decks. Thank you, Frankie.
Tell us about the track list on your tribute mix. How did you go about programming the music?
I honestly felt like Frankie was in the room with me when I did the mix. I actually did it in a single take and the only edit in the mix is the layover of President Obama’s speech. Frankie’s tracks are very musical, and I know their might be some key clashes during the mixes, but I literally felt chills when I was mixing and I just had to roll with it. It was a very spiritual mix. Frankie has such a long discography and the search and programming could’ve gone on an on forever, but I really felt like going with my gut feeling on this mix, so when it came to selecting the songs, I just let it flow. Of course I wanted to include “Tears” and “The Whistle Song.” As I listened to a bunch of Frankie’s productions, I tried to find songs that could best deliver Frankie’s message. Songs like “Beautiful” and “Let Me Live Again,” for example. I wanted to include [Toni Braxton’s] “Un-Break My Heart,” which is a work of art. Unfortunately, “Un-Break My Heart“ didn’t make it onto the mix.
What goes through your mind now when you play an FK song like “Tears” or “The Whistle Song”? Isn’t it hard to come to accept that he’s gone?
Well, at some point the sadness turned to happiness. Frankie’s music does what music is supposed to do: It’s beautiful music, so when I hear a song by Frankie now, I just smile. It’s definitely hard to accept his passing, but the last time I saw Frankie was at Santos Party House and he was in the booth doing his thing, and he was professional, on point, classy, smiling and charming, as I always knew him.
Any final thoughts?
Extra special thanks to The Godfather of House. He worked hard and lived the dream and it’s great to know that he was respected, acclaimed and loved.
Big Shot Guest Mix: Cevin Fisher (Frankie Knuckles Tribute)
- DBow – “Get Involved” (Director’s Cut, Frankie Knuckles, Eric Kupper Mix)
- Black Science Orchestra – “Where Were You” (Tedd’s Lights Out Groove Remix) (Junior Boys Own)
- Human Life – “In It Together” (Director’s Cut Signature Togetherness Mix) (Defected)
- Pete Griffiths feat. Cevin Fisher – “Chicago” (Original Mix) (Toolroom Records)
- Frankie Knuckles – “The Whistle Song” (Original Mix) (Virgin Records)
- Candi Staton – “Hallelujah Anyway” (Director’s Cut Halledubya Anyway Mix) (Defected)
- Colton Ford – “Let Me Live Again” (A Director’s Cut Remix) (Peace Bisquit Recordings)
- Hercules & Love Affair – “Blind” (Frankie Knuckles Remix) (Defected)
- Peyton, Frankie Knuckles, Eric Kupper – “Beautiful” (Original Mix) (Hysteria)
- Frankie Knuckles presents Satoshi Tomiie – “Tears” (Classic Vocal Mix) (ffrr/London)
Image of Cevin Fisher by Michael Crook