Dance music pioneer David Mancuso, 2016. Credits : Tomas Borbás

Dance music pioneer David Mancuso, founder of The Loft, has passed away

Alexandre Trochut
Dance music pioneer David Mancuso, 2016. Credits : Tomas Borbás
New York scene legend and dance music pioneer David Mancuso has passed away on monday at the age of 72 years. He was knowned for founded epic club “The Loft” and launching New York’s “first underground dance party“, which welcomed marginalised and LGBTQ audiences. Becoming a legend in the 70’s, “The Loft” will inspired legendaries clubs as The Paradise Garage or The Gallery.


Born in 1944, David Mancuso champion of a different kind of 70s club scene, had bypassed legislation that he found too restrictive to create with “The Loft” a sort of no-rights zone, in which the New York underground and minorities could find themselves, developing the Culture club as we know it today.


For me, the core is social progress (…) ”


Unlike the commercial clubs that existed to make a profit, Mancuso organized theLove Saves the Day” – that went down every saturday night, starting around midnight and running until the morning – with the will to offered a space for its members, often an LGBTQ audience but also to welcome all those who wanted Black, white, latino, gay, straight, feminist, militant, deserters, to celebrate nightlife without police interference. The social revolution begun in the early 1960s was not over, and Mancuso intended to make the club an area worthy of the change of society in progress. Mancuso always tried to kept an egalitarian ethos for its parties explaining :

I want a situation where there are no economic barriers, meaning somebody who didn’t eat that day or only has a few dollars in his pocket can eat like a king, drinks are included, you see your friends, There’s no difference if you have a lot of money or a little. (…)

How much social progress can there be when you’re in a situation that is repressive? You won’t get much social progress in a nightclub. In New York City they changed the law (for entry into clubs, from) 18 to 21 years old; where can this age group go to dance?

In my zone, you can be any age, a drinker or non-drinker, a smoker or a non-smoker. And that’s where I like to be. ” – David Mancuso

Also, the music fan was a passionate audiophile and had taken advantage of the vast space of his 300 meters² apartment while he installed a sound system at the forefront with the help of his acoustic friend Richard Long and launches the concept of the club as it’s known today; A quality sound system and above all with an emphasis on dancers :

What happened at the Loft is that Dancers were allowed to be part of the performance. For me, a club is not a business. The goal is to share a good time with friends. (…) The Loft parties are very personal, intimate thing. It’s the thing that keeps me going in life.” – David Mancuso

As a true audiophile, David Mancuso avoided using the pitch control on turntables, preferring less components and high-end speakers to convey the musician’s vision as opposed to the DJ’s. Famously, records were not mixed at The Loft.

I can understand that we want to mix two songs, but for me, nothing but touching the pitch changes the intention of the artist. We must let things unfold in the way the artist envisaged it. Over the long term, it’s more musical. Maybe I’m too purist, but as soon as you start adding things to music, it slips.David Mancuso


And then the Record Pool was born…


In 1975, the likes of Nicky Siano, founder of the SoHo Gallery in 1973, Larry Levan, future DJ at Paradise Garage, or Frankie Knuckles, the first DJ of the Chicago Warehouse where house music was born a decade later : All of them borrowed from The Loft its system of membership and co-optation, of which it must be remembered that it was less initiated by Mancuso as a system of privilege than to offer the community of members the guarantee of being able to party safely. With all these DJs regulars at the club, it probably led Mancuso to create the Record Pool; Initiated with DJ Steve d’Aquisto & the journalist Vince Aletti the “Record Pool“, is a system of disc promotion which allows DJs to receive free of charge new labels in exchange for “constructive” comments and In the clubs where they play.

The “Pool”, which has largely contributed to the rise of DJing as a trade, remains the model in force in 2016 for house and techno. David Morales paid tribute to Mancuso trough a message on his facebook” page today :

Today many of us are feeling a great loss. For many of us the Loft was OUR clubhouse and David Mancuso was our host. I was one of the fortunate ones that got introduced to the Loft and that’s how I met David. I was just 19 years old. He welcomed me into his home with open arms.

I followed his philosophy when I threw my own parties when I started in Brooklyn. I was a true Loft head. I would be there from the beginning to the last record. During the week we would talk about what he played the previous saturday night/day.

I gave David a poster that I drew and he hung it on the wall in the entrance to the Loft. I also painted a shirt for him which he also wore during the night. How proud did he make me feel.

David personally gave me some books about sound which I still own and he also talked to me about sound. David taught me that it wasn’t all about the mix. David quoted me in one of his compilations, my quote was “the Loft opened up my brain”. He did more than just open up my brain. He took my whole soul to another musical level.

Many of us will cherish those memories of many nights and days when we danced our hearts away. (…) David Mancuso my grandmaster of music. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with me. It has influenced me to be the DJ that I am today……May you rest in peace. Amen– David Morales

David Mancuso never stopped organizing parties in his home until the mid-90s, because of the increasingly hygienic gentrification of Manhattan. He became a nomadic DJ, playing like most of his peers in the four corners of the world rather than in his living room, organizing a few times a year parties in his city in rented places. A series of compilations published in the UK by the label house Nuphonic also pay tribute to his work. In recent years, Mancuso had almost acquired a status as a hero for the club nation, which saw in him more than a pioneer, a true spiritual father.

He passed away Monday night in New York, at the age of 72, for reasons still not communicated. The last Loft party took place on October 9th 2016.