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Farley Jackmaster Funk to Get Block of S. Michigan Ave. Named After Him

By Ted Cox | April 28, 2014 8:56pm | Updated on April 28, 2014 8:57pm
 House-music DJ and producer Farley Jackmaster Funk will get a block of South Michigan Avenue named after him.
House-music DJ and producer Farley Jackmaster Funk will get a block of South Michigan Avenue named after him.
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SOUTH LOOP — The "King of House" will soon get a section of South Michigan Avenue named after him.

The City Council Transportation Committee moved Monday to approve the honorary renaming of the 1300 block of South Michigan Avenue to Farley Jackmaster Funk Way, after the renowned house-music disc jockey and producer.

Farley "Jackmaster" Funk (nee Farley Keith Williams) was one of the earliest and greatest purveyors of house music when it came to the fore in the mid-'80s. His version of "Love Can't Turn Around" — produced with Jesse Saunders and with gospel singer Darryl Pandy providing the over-the-top, Chicago-centric vocals — took the music international to Britain and beyond and remains a house classic almost 30 years later.

The renaming of the street had been considered for years, but according to Funk it was coordinated now with the 30th anniversary of the origins of house. Transplanted New York City DJ Frankie Knuckles had been playing similar music at the gay club the Warehouse since the late '70s, but Saunders and Funk led efforts to take it to the mainstream at the Playground, 1347 S. Michigan Ave.

"That's where house music was born," he said. "It was born at the Playground."

According to Funk, 52, of suburban Country Club Hills, it was a huge club.

"It held 1,700 people on the top floor," he said, "and the bottom floor held another 1,400 people."

So it required a big sound to fill a big space, foremost with the big, thumping bass that is house music's defining element.

"It's in the whole area where the music has been generated," said Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd), who put forth the ordinance after it had been talked about for years going back to before he was elected in 2007.

Funk said he is almost overwrought at the recognition.

"You don't want to pull out a bucket and let a middle-aged man start crying some more, do you?" Funk said. "I'm dehydrated right now because I've been crying like crazy."

Knuckles, widely proclaimed as the "Godfather of House," died earlier this month. He had a street named after him 10 years ago near the site of the Warehouse at 206 S. Jefferson St.

The renaming of Farley Jackmaster Funk Way will last three years until the end of 2017. Fioretti said that's not because his music won't stand the test of time — it already has — but because the city should reassess street names on a regular basis as a matter of policy.

"All of these signs should be reviewed and renewed all the time," Fioretti said.

Funk is slated to spin for an hour at noon Friday at the Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington Blvd. The city has set a House Music History Walk down Michigan Avenue for immediately after at 1 p.m., followed by the street renaming ceremony at 2:30 p.m. at 14th Street and Michigan. That's all after the full City Council is expected to approve it on Wednesday.

The DJ is also organizing a "30 Years of House" concert reuniting many of the music's originators May 10 in Tinley Park.