Mel Cheren, the undisputed Godfather of Disco, passed away last Friday due to complications from AIDS. He was 74.

Credited with playing a pivotal role in the rise of the disco phenomenon that swept the 1970s, Cheren co-founded the seminal disco label, West End Records, in 1976. Its tunes inspired early hip-hop artists like the Sugarhill Gang. The enduring imprint found its biggest audience with the amply-sampled smash, “Heartbeat” by Taana Gardner. To this day, over three decades later, West End Records still releases re-issues, as well as sought-after classics-leaning compilations.

A musical visionary, Cheren provided financial backing for the legendary club, Paradise Garage, from 1977-87. The venue on King Street in the West Village played host to the likes of Madonna in early years (probably a fact she’d likely prefer to deny) and it was helmed by the late, great DJ, Larry Levan, who cemented the club’s iconic status with his inimitable DJ sets.

Cheren wrote about his remarkable adventures in the autobiography, ‘My Life and the Paradise Garage: Keep on Dancin’. Recently, the book was made into the film, The Godfather of Disco, directed by Gene Graham.

An avid supporter of contemporary dance music, Mel Cheren’s death is a great loss to the global dance music scene. He will be sorely missed.

The Godfather of Disco. aka, G.O.D.

Originally written by Julie Bolcer
Edited for Fusicology by June Joseph