Two nights ago Barack Obama, United States’ 44th President, gave his farewell speech to tens of thousands presents at Chicago’s McCormick Place and millions more watching around the country. While it is not up to us, as a news outlet that focuses on electronic music, to judge President Obama’s 8 years in the Oval Office, we find it important to remember Obama’s several personal links to house music and his history in supporting the scene we love so much.
Back in 2004, when he was still an Illinois State Senator, President Obama was directly responsible for facilitating the honorary naming of a day (August 25th) and street after Chicago House pioneer Frankie “The Godfather” Knuckles. Obama’s influence in the decision was explored during a recent episode of TV One’s Unsung.
Prior to the revelation, however, we had already learned of President’s Obama personal acknowledgement of house music and its importance in both the arts and as a cultural backbone that continuously shapes Chicago, the United States and the entire world beyond our borders. A picture of the Obamas and Knuckles surfaced in 2014 alongside a personal condolences letter penned by the President and the First Lady after Knuckles death that year. The photo of Barack and Michelle with Knuckles was actually taken at Oprah’s Legends Ball several years prior, where Knuckleswas the DJ. The letter, which you can read below, referred to Knuckles as “a trailblazer in his field,” stating that “his legacy lives on in the city of Chicago and on dance floors across the globe”. When you read the letter, note that the Obama’s carefully chosen words include mention of Knuckles’ penchant for “blending genres” — terminology so specific to the electronic music world it may be years before we hear another President utter or write anything so remotely pertinent to dance music culture.
In 2015 President Obama personally recorded a message for the 25th Anniversary of the Chosen Few Picnic in Chicago, an annual music festival held in Jackson Park that features house music as a central focus of the celebration. In fact, Obama went so far as to invite the Chosen Few DJ’s to the White House, further underscoring his understanding and love for the cultural movement that is house music.
No matter your political affiliation and your thoughts on President Obama’s 8 years in office, it’s most certainly a fact that it will be years, if not decades, before we get another United States President with the same cultural understanding, appreciation and respect for house music as Obama’s.
But now it’s time to bid Obama farewell, and we choose to do so with one of Frankie Knuckles’ best tracks.
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