A street party took place last night in New York City that was the latest step in a campaign to get a street in the city named after pioneering house DJ Larry Levan.
The street party was shut down by the police an hour early on Sunday 11th May, but not before it had made its mark. The event was live streamed around the world by the Red Bull Music Academy, with many international DJs commenting on Twitter about the campaign.
The campaign has been set up to have a part of King Street in the city, where the infamous Paradise Garage used to be, named after its famous resident DJ.
The section between Varick and Hudson in NYC, where Paradise Garage club-goers used to queue up , has been earmarked for the name-change tribute.
The campaign was launched by DJ Frankie Cruz, a former Paradise Garage clubber. He set up a petition that attracted a few thousand signatures initially, and when the Red Bull Music Academy got hold of it they decided to help take it to the next level by staging a street party.
“As the legendary DJ of the Paradise Garage, Larry Levan's musical journeys resulted in a very strong following by both gay and straight communities alike. As one of the first DJs to perform worldwide as well as one of the first DJs to develop and own his own record label, Larry Levan was a true pioneer in the dance music industry,” the petition begins.
Sign the petition here
In the 26 years since Larry Levan’s untimely death, an event has been held every year to celebrate the Paradise Garage’s legacy. The 20th July was Levan’s birthday and also the time of year that the Garage closed, and it was at last year’s party that the NYC house heads had the idea.
“While there were plenty of very large clubs afterwards and into the 90's, none could ever compare to the feeling of being a part of something so obviously special, very large but intimate, and not diluted by the commercial imperatives of selling as much liquor as possible," said Francois K, a friend and associate of Levan's who played the party last night. "It undeniably changed the lives of those who attended."
The recent death of Frankie Knuckles has helped shine a light on house music’s originators, believes Frankie Cruz. Knuckles had a street in Chicago named after him in 2006 — Chicago senator Barack Obama was instrumental in securing this monument at the time — and also in Chicago, a section of South Michigan Avenue has just been approved to be renamed Farley Jackmaster Funk Way.
Levan’s part in helping New York gain its rep as “the city that never sleeps” — he used to control the decks at the Paradise Garage all night until the following lunchtime — means that New York may not be far behind Chicago soon, although the city’s authorities can’t act until the petition is received and a lot of bureaucratic hoops have to be leapt through in order the secure a street’s name-change.
The importance of Larry Levan’s decade-long tenure at the Paradise Garage for the development of house music can’t be over-emphasised. Towards the end of his life, Larry spent three months at the Ministry Of Sound in its early days helping to fine-tune the soundsystem.