(Mel Cheren and Tom Moulton – center)
Music pioneer and activist, Mel Cheren, passed away on Friday, December 7, 2007. A tribute event is being planned around the date of his birthday, January 21, 2008 so stay tuned.
Logo Online video from 11/29: “The Godfather of Disco” Mel Cheren, who created 24 Hours For Life to combat HIV/AIDS, recently found out he is HIV-positive.
I just want to take a moment to acknowledge the passing of Mel Cheren, the ‘Godfather of Disco,’ who passed away earlier today, from AIDS complications. I just confirmed the details, and sadly, the news is true. Having had health problems for several months, his HIV status was only confirmed last month, by which point it was evidently too late.
Mel Cheren in Keep On Dancin’:
“There’s such a buzz in the air that you wonder if someone has pumped amphetamine vapor through the heating system. Euphoria is rampant. Everyone knows that 1979 will go down in history as the year disco became the biggest thing in pop since Beatlemania, and possibly since the birth of rock’n’roll.” (Rolling Stone cover story)
This is how 1979 began, in a blizzard of superlatives unlike anything I had seen in the music industry in 20 years. And yet it ended with the supposed death of disco. In a single year, the biggest bubble in the history of popular music would burst, and the record industry would turn viciously on the music that had fed its coffers for half a decade. By year’s end, the very word disco would be so tainted that music magazine editors would change disco to dance to escape the dreaded association. Of course, in the gay and black worlds the beat would go on just as it had before. Disco would simply go back underground, and we would keep dancing until we met a different disaster, one we couldn’t escape.
MEL CHEREN began his career in the music business in 1959 at ABC-Paramount Records As head of production for Scepter Records, Cheren forged new territory: He was instrumental not only in creating the first 12” single for DJs, in forming the first record pool (The New York Record Pool-later to become For The Record Record Pool) and the first to release an instrumental mix on a 12” B-side (“We’re On The Right Track” by Ultra High Frequency). This innovation earned Cheren and Scepter a Billboard Trendsetter Award and soon set the standard for an industry-wide practice. In 1976, Mel co-founded West End Records and soon after signed Karen Young, whose single “Hot Shot” sold 800,000 copies making it one of the biggest selling 12” in history. Cheren, though respected for his record label, is loved by many for making possible one of the world’s most revered nightclubs, The Paradise Garage. He was the financial backer for the club which was owned and operated by his former partner, Michael Brody. During the Garage years, Cheren’s relationship with the club’s influential DJ Larry Levan blossomed, resulting in some of the most memorable records to come out of the late Seventies and early Eighties. In addition to his role in music history and being dubbed “The Godfather of Disco” by trade magazine Dance Music Report, Cheren is a dedicated AIDS awareness activists. In 1982 he became actively involved with the Gay Men’s Health Crisis. In 1987 he formed 24 Hours For Life, a not-for-profit organization of media and music professionals which produced fundraising events for AIDS relief and education.