Larry Levan tribute nights? No, we’re not fans, either…

Back on Monday, Ears To The House published an article about a Frankie Knuckles tribute event in Italy last weekend which met with scorn by David Morales – one man who knew Knuckles more than most. We commented on how no money from the event appeared to be going to the Frankie Knuckles Foundation in Chicago – indeed, the only benefactors appear to be those playing or holding the event.

This is a scene where many of its pioneers and originators have died penniless. And whilst this doesn’t apply as much in the case of Knuckles, the principle remains. We have no particular issue with holding tribute nights to celebrate the achievements of people who have contributed to the genre – but we do believe doing it purely to cash in on someone else’s legacy is grubby and distasteful.

One person who contacted us tells us about tribute nights to Larry Levan, which occasionally take place in New York and elsewhere. As far as we could establish, no charity has been established in the name of Larry Levan, but some of the events which have been held in his honour give money to AIDS charities. The explanation given for this was a number of Levan’s friends died at the hands of this disease.

One of those was Michael Brody, the owner of Paradise Garage – where Levan was the resident DJ from 1977 to 1987. Brody’s death, occurring just weeks after Paradise Garage closed in 1987, hit Levan deeply – and led to his addiction to drugs spiralling. He ended up selling nearly all of his records to fund his habit, such was the depths of his addiction.

A little known fact is when he first appeared at London’s Ministry of Sound in 1991, he had to borrow records from DJ Harvey for his set. The early 90s brought about something of a renaissance in his career – and to his bank balance – but the drugs had done their damage by that point, and he died of heart failure on 8th November 1992.

Logic dictates to us that a tribute night to Levan should therefore bring with it a sizeable donation to a charity which helps people battling AIDS, or perhaps an organisation which helps those with drug problems. Otherwise, it just seems distasteful to us…

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