Progressive Baptist Church on South Wentworth in Chicago was packed with hundreds of people wanting to say goodbye to the founder of House Music, DJ Frankie Knuckles April 21.
Knuckles, who was openly gay and honored for his DJ work around the world, died March 31 at age 59.
Among the well-wishers were Gov. Pat Quinn and other politicians, fellow DJs, family and friends. President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama sent a letter in support of Knuckles, that read in part: "Frankie's work helped open minds and bring people together, blending genres to capture our attention and ignite our imaginations. He was a trailblazer in his field, and his legacy lives on in the city of Chicago and on dance floors across the globe."
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The evening featured beautiful music tributes by Cynthia F. Carter, Inaya Day and Terisa Griffin. There was also a moving video with dozens of friends telling stories and saying goodbye. Among those on film were Marques Wyatt, Joe Smooth, Greg Loftis, Jocelyn Brown, Marshall Jefferson, Ultra Nate, Kenny Bobien, Syleena Johnson, Lisa Raye, David Harness, Byron Stingily, K Alexi, Eric Miller, Ron Carroll, Peter Edge, Terry Hunter, David Morales, Eric Hubber, Joi Cardwell, Crystal Waters, Hex Hector, Will Downing and Maurice Joshua.
David Morales was also in the audience and addressed the crowd, as did Jamie Principle, Joe Shanahan, Alan King and Wayne Williams, all of them noting how much Knuckles supported and influenced their own careers. One protege flew in from the United Kingdom to share his memories of the man.
Cousins Angela Tate and Tangela Poole, along with Knuckles' younger brother Julius, spoke about his life apart from the music, as a supportive family member.
Other politicians speaking were Ald. Robert Fioretti, Rep. Ken Dunkin and Ald. Walter Burnett.
Rev. Roderick Norton of the Empowerment Center for Better Living said house music is a special type of spiritual music. "Frankie understood he had to share his gift of music," he said.
Knuckles was partners in the D/E Entertainment business with Dennis Evans and Frederick Dunson, his best friend for many years, and both men spoke about the deep love they had for Knuckles. Evans sang a song, and Dunson shared how Knuckles was actually a shy man and preferred being out of the spotlight. In the 38 years he knew the man, Dunson said he doesn't think Knuckles ever knew the impact he had around the world on so many people.
Judy Weinstein joined Morales on stage in discussing Def Mix Productions, and the role Knuckles played as part of their team of artists. She met Knuckles in New york 1974 and introduced him to Morales.
Gov. Quinn said Knuckles' music stirred the soul, and that "Charisma means god's graceFrankie had it."
Many people mentioned Knuckles' big smile and warm embrace, and how he helped to bring along several generations of new DJs and singers.
Principle said he asked Knuckles to produce his music, "and he called me his kid ever since. Losing Frankie is one of the hardest personal things" he has ever experienced. He said Knuckles was like a father to him.
Wayne Williams said his recent song "There Was a Place" was about the famous Warehouse club where Knuckles created the house music sound. Williams noted the big separation between gay and straight in the 1970s, and the fact that the Warehouse "brought all genders and nationalities together. Don't take lightly. ... Frankie was my first gay friend. In 2014 that is not much, but in 1978 it was a big deal."
Alan King said Knuckles "was an even better human being than a DJ. He spent his life making people smile and dance. He was my hero and friend." King said "Frankie was the gold standard of DJs. We were always playing to the standard he set for all of us."
Joe Shanahan, who booked Knuckles more than 100 times at his Smart Bar, explained how Knuckles made it very late to his own birthday party this past January. He was weak, and could not make it into the party area. But he could hear people singing a song for his birthday, and he felt the love of the people. "Frankie will be there on every dance floor and in every pair of shoes warn out from dancing. Frankie will always be," Shanahan said.
MCs for the evening were LeeAnn Trotter and Dedry Jones.