HOUSE MUSIC IS BLACK AMERICAN MUSIC
By Piotr Orlov
October 22, 2018
In case you don’t know — and chances are pretty good that if you aren’t from Chicago or a house music-head, you may not — the picture above is that of Frankie Knuckles. Knuckles, who passed away in 2014, is commonly known as the “Godfather of House Music,” but he may as well be called its actual parent, because it was The Warehouse, a Chicago club where from 1977-82 he DJ’ed a mix of deep dance music (soul and disco, disco-rap and early electronic vibes, pretty much anything beatwise and funky), that gave the genre its name. As you can plainly see, Frankie Knuckles was a Black man (he was also a gay man), and the people who he initially played music for were also predominantly gay people of color. This is Dance Music 101 shit that you can learn pretty much anywhere, that many of those engaged with dance music can recite it off the top.
Unfortunately, it seems that neither the producers at ABC News’ Nightline program — nor mega-selling French house DJ/producer, David Guetta — are interested in history when it stands in the way of hype, or of a hot-take headline, even if the episode turns into more erasure of Black American cultural achievement. Never mind that this past Friday’s episode of Nightline featured a puff-piece on Guetta, who long ago abandoned house for EDM-style pop (often featuring Black vocalists). The true GTFOH moment came when ABC News decided to promote the video with the clickbaiting headline that read in part, “How David Guetta helped bring house music to the US.” (ABCNews.com changed it to a less troll-oriented headline over the weekend but the equally indignant good people of 5 Chicago grabbed it.)
Regardless of the fact that nobody should go to ABC for lessons on dance music history, this particular bit of revisionism was akin to Christopher Columbus’ “discovery” of America. (Props to Detroit DJ Mark Flash for the comparison.) Even after centuries of poorly constructed white media narratives that have usurped Black culture for the benefit of global Whiteness, it somehow still feels surprising when this shit happens so blatantly.
So just to review true dance-music history: house was born on Chicago’s South Side (of New York roots), and techno was created in Detroit, two versions of futurist electronic music first made in the 1980s by Black and Hispanic people, for Black and Hispanic people. Just like disco. That it was later adopted by straight, white, heavily European crowds should be an occasion for those people to say “Thank You,” not “mine” or “one love” or any other dismissal of the culture-building that Black people perform for the enlightened masses. People who are supposedly in the real news business, shouldn’t be faking the funk.