Larry Levan was the first superstar DJ. The first to really convince the world that there was more to DJing than just playing one record after another. For 10 years from 1977 to 1987, Levan was the star attraction at New York’s legendary Paradise Garage, writing himself into clubbing lore with swashbuckling DJ sets that took in minimal underground disco, funky rock, dub and synth-pop, which foreshadowed the house music revolution. At the same time, his uncanny ability to mix and tweak records for maximum emotional impact would regularly send his devoted congregation into raptures.
Soon after the Garage opened, Levan also expanded into music production and mixing in order to create the sounds he wanted to hear in the club. His unique approach helped make stars of singers like Taana Gardner and Gwen Guthrie, and his enveloping yet propulsive productions for the likes of Man Friday and the Peech Boys remain hugely influential in underground dance circles. Many of those seminal tracks are collected on a new compilation, Genius Of Time, which is out now. Here, five of Levan’s friends, collaborators and acolytes reflect on his life and legacy.