Mel Cheren, Godfather of Disco, Dies at 74

December 12, 2007 at 8:30 am 1 comment

Mel Cheren, widely consider the “Godfather of Disco”, died on Friday at the age of 74 of AIDS related complications. Mel was the founder of West End Records, which released some of the pioneering records in disco music, and of the legendary dance club Paradise Garage:

From the New York Sun:

In 1977, Cheren and his companion, Michael Brody, opened the Paradise Garage, a seminal nightclub on King Street in the West Village in a former parking garage — a ramp led up to the dance floor. Smoke machines and music videos lurked in the corners and one of the most sophisticated sound systems in the city pumped out DJ Larry Levan’s selections. As it was a private club and sold no alcohol, the dancing could continue far into the night, sometimes even until noon the next day. The endless throbbing at Paradise Garage is often cited as a precursor to house music and similar modern styles. Despite the onset of AIDS and the “death to disco” or “disco sucks” movement of the early 1980s, the Paradise Garage managed to stay open until 1987. Today it is again a garage.

Mel also was widely known for HIV/AIDS advocacy including helping to build gay Men’s Health Crisis and founding 24 Hours for Life in 1987 to raise critically needed funds for HIV prevention and education.

In his memoirs My Life and the Paradise Garage, Mel tells what he calls “a story of my gay generation, the world we built, and the world we lost.”

Its easy these days of openly LGBT elected officials, celebrities, athletes and gay kids coming out at younger and younger ages to forget just how important disco was to the development of gay culture and the creation of a stronger, more vibrant and more visible community. Check out this clip from a BBC documentary called Love Saves the Day: The Birth of Disco for a glimpse of the connection between the gay liberation movement and disco music. The clip does not mention Mel, but his influence on disco and gay culture is something that should never be forgotten.

Much love: Joe. My. God.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Webster  |  December 13, 2007 at 11:22 am

    I remember that. Cool!

    Reply

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