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DJ Deeon, influential and iconic Chicago house music DJ, dead at 56

DJ Deonn poses in an image for <em>Dancemania Delights Volume 4!!! </em>released on Bandcamp.
DJ Deonn
DJ Deonn poses in an image for Dancemania Delights Volume 4!!! released on Bandcamp.

Who is he? DJ Deeon, legendary house music DJ and producer, has died at 56.

  • Deeon 'DJ Deeon' Boyd was a pioneer of the Chicago-based house music sub-genre "ghetto house." The genre is characterized by its minimal and raw drum machine-driven tracks, often overlayed with raunchy chants.
  • Born and raised in Chicago, DJ Deeon started making music in the mid 1980s. In a 2016 interview with DIRTYBIRD Records, he said his style was influenced by the sounds of Kraftwerk, John Rocca and Soulsonic Force: 
  • "Once I heard electronic dance music, there wasn't no other music to listen to. There was nothing else. My mind was just focused on that."

  • DJ Deeon's Facebook page announced his death earlier today. The artist had suffered several health issues over the last few years, including cancer, quadruple bypass surgery and a series of strokes, according to a 2020 fundraising campaign.
  • What's the big deal? Music producers and DJs across genres recognize DJ Deeon for his influence on dance music.

  • In his interview with DIRTYBIRD Records, DJ Deeon recalled the early days of ghetto house, saying the sound first took off at parties in Chicago's high rise public housing projects:
  • "You used to pay like a dollar to get in...the apartment probably only hold like, in the living room, only meant to hold about 50 people in the apartment. But before the night's over we'd move two to 300 people through it...It was crazy. It was wild. It was fun."

  • The ghetto house sound spread far beyond Chicago, gaining popularity and influencing artists across house music and all over the world. Daft Punk even included DJ Deeon in their 1997 track "Teachers," which names dozens of the French duo's influences.
  • What are people saying?

    Tributes to DJ Deeon have popped up on social media.

    Here's what his Chicago-based peer DJ Slugo had to say on Instagram:

    Tiffany Walden, editor in chief of the Chicago-based publication TRiiBE, posted this:

    And the record label that released the Lee Walker and DJ Deeon collaboration "Freak Like Me" wrote:

    Learn more:

  • From the Warehouse to the world: Chicago and the birth of house musi
  • Why house music is having a moment; Cooking-inspired romance novels raise the heat
  • House music is alive and well in South Africa
  • Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Kai McNamee
    [Copyright 2024 NPR]
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