I thought I'd dust off the blog long enough to commemorate this day - marking 21 years since Lawrence Philpot, better known as Larry Levan, perhaps one of the most legendary of disco DJs, passed away in 1992. I've often thought about why a singular figure like Larry Levan has come to have such a deep resonance with many people, including myself, who've come to appreciate disco long after the fact, people who were far too young to experience disco at its height, or even the Paradise Garage while it was still around. The reasons are undoubtedly many, and I could probably go on for pages and pages about the possible whys and hows, so I'll mercifully leave that for another time.. Simply put however, it's probably safe to say that Larry Levan has become a symbol of artistry and authenticity in a genre that has long been derided as anything but, and of what so many DJs dream of and aspire to. To command a loyal following and inspire the kind of loyalty that would allow that audience, that following, to let you take them wherever you want to, night after night..
Recently, while looking around on Soundcloud, I had found a 1 hour and 17 minute live recording of one of his sets at the Paradise Garage apparently from 1979 (although this recording contains tracks released later, so I suppose the time frame is debatable, whether this was even Larry at all has also been up for debate). Some might recognize the first part of the mix as Disc 2 of the "Larry Levan Live at the Paradise Garage" (2000, West End/Strut) double album that, speaking for myself, played a huge part in introducing me to the legacy of Larry and The Garage as a teenager, and was most certainly, in those days when file sharing and social networking had yet to really take off, the first time I had ever heard a genuine live disco mix. Not that he didn't and doesn't have his critics, who have sometimes bemoaned the lack of technical precision in his mixes. In fact after mixing things here pretty tightly in the first half, he takes a break from it in the second, playing full songs in their entirety. Ultimately though listening to Larry here and elsewhere proves, in my estimation, that time and time again, selection and feeling will always trump pure precision..
While the circumstances of Larry's final years were a long way away from the reverence his name inspires today, West End Records' founder and Paradise Garage backer Mel Cheren has a chapter in his autobiography from 2000 - "Keep On Dancin' - My Life & The Paradise Garage" about Larry's final years which despite a final triumphant stand in Japan, was a sad, emotional and sometimes frustrating read. It was often a picture of Larry at his lowest - penniless, professionally directionless and hooked on drugs. Towards the end of the chapter, Mel, who himself is no longer with us, nonetheless summed things up as succinctly and poignantly as probably anyone else has in the past two decades..
"We gave something to the world. Larry gave something that resonates to this day. Yes there are ghosts, yes there are many regrets. There were mistakes. But there is music, and joy, and acceptance and love. And today all over the world people remember. Young people, who were never there in person, are there today in spirit, dancing and singing, expressing their own hopes and dreams. That's what we gave... We could have done better. But then again, we could have done much worse."
While the clock is ticking on the last physical vestige of the Paradise Garage, there's currently a campaign to commemorate a section of King Street in Manhattan in honour of Larry Levan, much like Chicago has done for Larry's old friend - Godfather of House, Frankie Knuckles. Currently there's a petition going around trying to make that happen, which is just over halfway to its initial goal, and may just be worth some consideration..
PREVIOUS RELATED ENTRIES:
DISCO DELIVERY #65: MS. SHARON RIDLEY - FULL MOON (1978, TABU/CBS) (SATURDAY FEBRUARY 23, 2013)
I'M VERY SUPERFICIAL, I HATE EVERYTHING OFFICIAL.. (TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 15, 2009)
R.I.P. MEL CHEREN (FRIDAY DECEMBER 7, 2007)
THE GODFATHER OF DISCO (FRIDAY JUNE 15, 2007)
DISCO DELIVERY #38: PATRICK ADAMS PRESENTS PHREEK (1978, ATLANTIC) (THURSDAY MARCH 29, 2007)
BLACK AND WHITE RAINBOWS, COLOURFUL SHADOWS.. (THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 28, 2006)
DISCO DELIVERY #12: DAMON HARRIS - SILK (1978 WMOT/FANTASY) (FRIDAY MARCH 24, 2006)
THE FIRST DELIVERY: THE SUPREMES - MARY, SCHERRIE & SUSAYE (1976, MOTOWN) (TUESDAY JANUARY 10, 2006)
WIKIPEDIA: LARRY LEVAN
DISCOGS: LARRY LEVAN
FACEBOOK: LARRY LEVAN
DISCOMUSIC.COM: LARRY LEVAN
NPR - REMEMBERING THE JIMI HENDRIX OF DANCE MUSIC (BY MICHAELANGELO MATOS) (DECEMBER 6, 2011)
GLOBAL DARKNESS - LARRY LEVAN (1954-1992) REMEMBERING A LEGEND (BY RAVEN FOX)
DEEPHOUSEPAGE.COM: LARRY LEVAN
WIKIPEDIA: PARADISE GARAGE
FACEBOOK: PARADISE GARAGE
DISCO-DISCO.COM: PARADISE GARAGE
DISCOMUSIC.COM - PARADISE GARAGE
A GARAGE TRIBUTE
GOODREADS: KEEP ON DANCIN - MY LIFE AND THE PARADISE GARAGE (BY MEL CHEREN & GABRIEL ROTELLO
NEW YORK MAGAZINE - NIGHTLIFE: PARADISE LOST (BY ETHAN BROWN) (JULY 24, 2000)
FACT: WATCH A TWO-HOUR VIDEO OF LEGENDARY NEW YORK CLUB THE PARADISE GARAGE'S 1987 CLOSING PARTY (MAY 31, 2013)
FACEBOOK: CREATING LANDMARK STATUS FOR 84 KING STREET (PARADISE GARAGE)
CURBED: NEW YORK - DEVELOPMENT WATCH (WEDNESDAY JANUARY 16, 2013)
CAUSES.COM - RENAME A SECTION OF KING STREET NYC TO LARRY LEVAN STREET
FACEBOOK: LARRY LEVAN STREET
CATEGORIES: IN MEMORIAM.., MIX FIX