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Levan, Larry (1954-1992)  
page: 1  2  

As a remixer, Levan was sensational, and many of his recordings found their way to the national dance music charts. Among the songs he remixed are "Ain't Nothin' Going On But the Rent" by Gwen Guthrie, "Heartbeat" by Taana Gardner, and "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" by Inner Life. Levan's remix of "I Got My Mind Made Up (You Can Get it Girl)" went gold.

In addition, Levan created a series of classic productions on the Salsoul and West End labels. His band, the New York Citi Peech Boys, featured Michael deBenedictas and Levan on keyboards and Bernard Fowler as vocalist. Their song "Don't Make Me Wait" became a huge hit in the dance community. Other songs they recorded include "On a Journey," "Come On, Come On," and "Life is Something Special."

When the Paradise Garage closed its doors on September 26, 1987, Levan's drug use increased. He worked for awhile at Studio 54 and, in 1989, he became DJ at Richard Vasquez's new club Choice on the Lower East Side.

When Choice closed a few months later, and when his close friend artist Keith Haring died in February 1990, Levan's descent into drugs and other self-destructive behavior accelerated. During this time he lived with his mother and with Mel Cheron, Michael Brody's ex-lover. He began taking heroin and disappearing for weeks at a time. To raise money for drugs, he would sell his record collection, and his friends would buy it back.

Although his popularity in New York faded, Levan was still regarded as a star in Europe. In 1992, he went to England to design the sound system for London's Ministry of Sound nightclub and played there with Frankie Knuckles.

In August of 1992, Levan, Mel Cheren, and Francois Kevorkian, a fellow DJ and friend, went to Japan on Levan's Harmony Tour. The Japanese went crazy for Levan's music, and they treated him like a celebrity. Near the end of the tour, however, Levan's health began to fail.

He arrived home in New York in a wheelchair and checked himself into a hospital rehabilitation program for several weeks.

In November 1992, Levan again checked himself into a hospital. Four days later, on November 8, he died of cardiac endocarditis, a fluid build-up around the heart, no doubt exacerbated by his drug usage.

Mel Cheren, published a book about his memories of the Paradise Garage and his friendship with Larry Levan in 2000 called Keep on Dancing: My Life and the Paradise Garage. The book is as much a biography of Levan as it is a history of the Paradise Garage and the disco era. Cheren calls Levan "the father of house music," although that title now is commonly attached to Levan's friend Frankie Knuckles.

Also in 2000, West End Records released "Larry Levan Live at the Paradise Garage," a mixed two-disc CD set with a 36-page booklet.

In 2004, the documentary Maestro was released. Produced, written, and directed by Josell and Camera Ramos, the documentary traces the history of the underground dance music culture of the 1970s and 1980s. Not surprisingly, it focuses on Levan.

In 2004, Larry Levan was inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame. Each July on Levan's birthday, a remembrance party is held for him in New York with his DJ friends David Depino and Francois Kevorkian spinning.

On their 2006 album, The Rose Has Teeth in the Mouth of a Beast, the electronic group Matmos contains a tribute song to Levan called "Steam and Sequins for Larry Levan."

Victoria Shannon

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Brewster, Bill, and Frank Broughton. Last Night a DJ Saved My Life: The History of the Disc Jockey. New York: Grove Press, 2000.

_____. "Larry Levan's Paradise Garage." (2000):

Cheren, Mel. Keep on Dancing: My Life and the Paradise Garage. New York: 24 Hours For Life, 2000.

Lawrence, Tim. Love Saves the Day: A History of American Dance Music Culture. Durham: Duke University Press, 2004.


    Citation Information
    Author: Shannon, Victoria  
    Entry Title: Levan, Larry  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2008  
    Date Last Updated August 2, 2008  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2008 glbtq, Inc.  


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