The dance hero behind The Loft passes away.
David Mancuso, the pioneering DJ whose invite-only parties in the 1970s became the bedrock of New York’s underground dance culture, has died aged 72.
Mancuso’s private parties at The Loft in Manhattan helped establish a vibrant alternative to New York’s commercial club scene in the early 1970s, famed for their exceptional sound quality rather than DJ showmanship.
“To me, any time you touch the pitch control, it changes what the artist intended,” he told RBMA this year. “I think it’s better to remain musical and stick with what the artist intended. Maybe I’m too much of a purist, but once you start adding stuff, it can get out of hand.”
He was able to slip out of the authorities’ grasp by not selling alcohol or food at the venue, winning a case against the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs in the early ‘70s that proved he didn’t need a “Cabaret License” to run the party, which moved locations several times.
“For me the core [idea behind The Loft] is about social progress,” he told writer Tim Lawrence. “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.’
The Loft’s success inspired countless more underground venues that became the birthplaces of house music, such as the Paradise Garage, The Gallery, and The Saint. The club was also the headquarters of the New York Record Pool, the first DJ record pool, which he founded with Vince Aletti and Steve D’Acquisto.
Mancuso was central to Tim Lawrence’s investigation into New York’s early dance scene, Love Saves the Day: A History of American Dance Music Culture, 1970–1979, a book named after the first party at The Loft in 1970.
Bill Brewster, Junior Sanchez, Erol Alkan and Mark Ronson were among the DJs and fans paying tribute to Mancuso’s influence.