What a week – the Juneteenth commemoration in the US, Chicago house music interest trending as it’s repurposed for new big-name pop, and the death of disco legend Patrick Adams. Every day is a good day to know your roots, so let’s do this.
It is summer, though. So I promise this is the kind of school you’ll want. Earbuds, beach study is even possible, dear northern hemisphere and tropical dwellers.
Patrick Adams is another great loss to music this year; we learned yesterday he had died at 72. The Harlem native had 32 gold and platinum records to his name. He was a superproducer, an engineering talent, an arranger, a person with his fingerprints on every aspect of music through disco, soul, boogie, R&B, hip-hop, and more. That included work with Black Ivory, Jocelyn Brown, R. Kelly, Sat-N-Pepa, Herbie Mann, Coolio — it’s hard to even know how to list all of it.
And if some of those connections sound far-flung to our modern ear, it may be because of how erased the contributions of disco and Black music in general are interwoven in various popular and dance styles that came after. Four-on-the-floor drums are a feature of a lot of musics around the world, but their particular relationship to arrangement and groove even in very stylistically different techno now is inexorable from disco history. That’s true no matter how many times people, uh, ritually burn the records.
Jazz Monroe wrote a lucid, moving obituary for Pitchfork:
Disco Great Patrick Adams Dies at 72
April Clare Welsh has an emotional, rich portrait of the man and remembrances for DJ Mag:
Patrick Adams, legendary disco producer and songwriter, dies, aged 72
And in addition to the video interview above, it’s well worth reading through Jason King’s story also for the now-defunct RBMA. It includes a great guide to his discography and more insights from Adams himself in how he conceived music:
A Celebration of Patrick Adams
I can’t say this enough – we have to do more for people while they’re with us, young and old.
But it’s most moving to read what Adams’ daughter Joi wrote in sharing the news:
“He who dubbed me joy at birth, taught me how to live in love, made himself unforgettable in every way to me and to so many others in the world. Patrick Adams has moved on but some of us, like me, will forever be stuck [happily] in what he created for us and by us. My father passed away earlier today at on his sleep at the golden age of 72 after living a life of music. Forever grateful for what I learned from him? Who I became because of who he was.”
Music artists can say the same, on so many levels, even of someone we may have never known face to face.
I’ve heard a chorus of decades-long house producers responding to the sudden popular interest from the public (via Drake, Beyoncé).
Let’s start with someone I look up to as a musician, a teacher, and a human being. (I mean, also check his productions, always!) I’m jealous of the 18 -year-old+ students who take his course at UCSD. But here we get to enjoy that class in our homes.
Here’s an excerpt of King’s class, starting with Frankie Knuckles and some insights into how things change, and how he moved to Chicago. Then King invites as a special guest the mighty Ron Trent, who not only represents the history of Chicago house as a Black style but also forged some of the connections to Detroit and Berlin.
It’s hard to top this as a Chicago house class, “from discos to warehouses.”
Beautiful as that history is, I don’t want to suggest folks get too precious about it, either. Nothing against Beyoncé, but I do hope that people look beyond just the obvious elements of 90s house hits and discover some other tracks, too. (For those who don’t know, Beyoncé samples enough of Robin S’s “Show Me Love” to nearly be counted as a mash-up.) There’s a continuing thread of house music that is alive and changing and growing and continues to be Black and features so many incredible artists who remain on the margins of the commodified industry.
So for instance, go check the incredible Lady Blacktronica (who’s just as comfortable making pounding high-BPM hard techno and industrial as this, under the Femanyst guise, less you imagine these things aren’t connected).
“I’m tired of giving my love / and getting nowhere” from Robin S’s anthem I’m sure will resonate with plenty of underground producers. Show them love.
Black-run Dweller is one of the most vital music publications today – and a rare bright spot in a music journalism landscape that faces serious challenges.
For 2022 Juneteenth, they again have again updated their incredible reading list of “articles, interviews, and documentaries about techno, house, and their shared history.”
It’s a beautiful, necessary rabbit hole, starting with the 1996 James Boggs presentation relating Black people to cybernetics and the “cybercultural revolution.” Afro-Arab diasporic culture is in there, too. And Detroit techno. Gender and contemporary dance. “Postcolonial Waterworld” is starting to sound frighteningly on the nose. There are bits of everything. It’s continuously updated, as well.
You get more videos, too, in case your eyes get tired.
Actually, I hope you do more than just read – pass some of those articles on. We need less time spent reacting on corporate social media and more time sharing substance and life.
And to anyone who says music is “just about partying,” this is a comprehensive answer to the rainbow of possibilities so much of the partying has actually been about.
More links welcome. This is not anything comprehensive – it’s your regular reminder. Summer school’s in forever.
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