Trace the black roots of disco, house and techno in videos and reading – summer school is in

What a week ! The commemoration of June 19 in the United States, the interest in Chicago house music as it refocused on new big names in pop, and the death of disco legend Patrick Adams. Every day is a good day to get to know your roots, so let’s do it.

It’s summer though. Then I promise this is the kind of school you want. Headphones, the study of the beach is even possible, dear inhabitants of the northern hemisphere and the tropics.

Remembering Patrick Adams

Patrick Adams is another big loss for music this year; we learned yesterday that he had died at the age of 72. The Harlem native had 32 gold and platinum records to his name. He was a super-producer, an engineering talent, an arranger, a person with his fingerprints on all aspects of music across disco, soul, boogie, R&B, hip-hop, and more. This included working with Black Ivory, Jocelyn Brown, R. Kelly, Sat-N-Pepa, Herbie Mann, Coolio – it’s hard to even know how to list it all.

And if some of these connections seem distant to our modern ear, it may be because of the way the contributions of disco and black music in general are intertwined in various popular and dance styles that followed. Four-on-the-floor drumming is a hallmark of much music around the world, but their special relationship to arrangement and groove, even in very stylistically different techno, is now inexorably part of disco history. That’s true no matter how many times people, uh, ritually burn records.

Jazz Monroe wrote a lucid and moving obituary for Pitchfork:

Disco great Patrick Adams dies at 72

April Clare Welsh has a rich and moving portrait of the man and the memories of DJ Magazine:

Patrick Adams, legendary disco producer and songwriter, dies aged 72

And in addition to the video interview above, it’s worth reading Jason King’s story for the now-defunct RBMA as well. It includes an excellent guide to his discography and more insights from Adams himself on how he crafted the music:

A celebration of Patrick Adams

I can’t say it enough – we need to do more for people while they are with us, young and old.

But it’s very moving to read what Adams’ daughter, Joi, wrote when sharing the news:

“He who dubbed me the joy of birth, taught me to live in love, made himself unforgettable in every way for me and for so many others in the world. Patrick Adams has moved on but some of us, like me, will be stuck forever [happily] in what he has created for us and through us. My father passed away earlier today in his sleep at the golden age of 72 after living a life of music. Still grateful for what I learned from him? Who I became because of who he was.

Musical artists can say the same thing, on so many levels, even of someone we may never have known face to face.

Chicago House

I heard a chorus of decades-old house producers respond to the sudden popular interest of the public (via Drake, Beyoncé).

Let’s start with someone I look up to as a musician, teacher, and human being. (I mean, check his productions, too, always!) I’m jealous of students 18 and older who take his course at UCSD. But here we enjoy that class in our homes.

Here’s a clip from King’s class, starting with Frankie Knuckles and some insight into how things change and how he moved to Chicago. Next, King invites as 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 that as classy Chicago house, “from nightclubs to warehouses.”

As beautiful as this story is, I also don’t want to suggest that people get too precious about it. Nothing against Beyoncé, but I hope people will look beyond the obvious elements of 90s house hits and discover other tracks as well. (For those who don’t know, Beyoncé samples Robin S’s “Show Me Love” enough to almost be considered a mash-up.) There’s a continuous thread of house music that’s alive, changing and growing and going on. to be black and features so many incredible artists who remain on the fringes of the commodified industry.

So, for example, check out the incredible Lady Blacktronica (who is equally at home doing hard techno and high BPM industrial, in the guise of Femanyst, unless you imagine that these things are unrelated).

Robin S’s anthem “I’m tired of giving my love / and going nowhere” I’m sure will resonate with a lot of underground producers. Show them love.

Essential Reading

Black track inhabitant 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’ve again updated their incredible playlist “of articles, interviews and documentaries about techno, house and their shared history”.

It’s a beautiful and necessary rabbit hole, starting with James Boggs’ 1996 presentation on black people, cybernetics, and the “cybercultural revolution.” The culture of the Afro-Arab diaspora is there too. And Detroit techno. Gender and contemporary dance. “Postcolonial Waterworld” is starting to sound creepy on the nose. There are pieces of everything. It is also continuously updated.

You also get more videos, in case your eyes get tired.

In fact, I hope you will do more than just read – forward some of these articles. We need less time spent reacting on corporate social media and more time sharing substance and life.

And for anyone who says music is “just partying”, it’s a complete answer to the rainbow of possibilities that much of the partying has actually been.

More links welcome. It’s not a complete thing – it’s your regular reminder. Summer school is forever.

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Raymond I. Langston