MUSIC: Block Party Sets Tone for Renaming King Street ‘Larry Levan Way’



A local initiative to change one of Gotham’s streets in honor of the iconic DJ Larry Levan of Paradise Garage picked up steam as part of the inaugural Red Bull Music Academy Festival New York, a monthlong series of music and art events.

On May 11, thousands filled King Street between Varick and Hudson with veteran DJs François K., David DePino, Joey Llanos and other guests for the Larry Levan Street Party. If you missed the event, you still can get involved by signing the petition to co-name King Street to Larry Levan Way here. And, check out Red Bull Music Academy’s new series, beat:repeat NYC, which features an intimate look at Levan’s hand in shaping the soundtrack of a pivotal moment in underground dance music history.

Levan (born Lawrence Philpot) was 38 when he died of heart failure in 1992 resulting from endocarditis. Though revered by those in the know, his talent and influence on today’s music scene often goes unnoticed, according to Frankie Cruz, among those spearheading the petition effort. “Unfortunately, Larry’s story is never told enough, and any past accounts of him were minimal to say the least,” Cruz shared with Tania Fuentez Media ahead of the event.

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“People talk about House and the DJs who became great remix producers and travel globally. Well, before all of these DJs of today, there was Larry Levan,” Cruz reflects. “Before there were raves and sold out stadium events, there was Saturday Mass at the Paradise Garage with people standing outside 84 King Street in the wee hours of the morning still waiting to get in. What today’s DJs are doing now, Larry already achieved that in the 80s.”

Author Peter Shapiro shared this sentiment in a recent article on Red Bull Music Academy’s site. “It would strike anyone involved in contemporary clubland as utter madness for a DJ to stop a set dead near peak time to personally polish a few tiny tiles of glass dangling 20 feet above the dancers’ heads, but Levan understood that DJing isn’t simply about beat matching,” Shapiro writes. “It’s about throwing a party, which he believed was an art form and not a mere profession. In sharp contrast to today’s careerist DJs and their ruthless two-hour wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am sets, Levan put his heart and soul into every detail at the club with which he will forever be associated, New York’s Paradise Garage.”

Cruz added that New York City was once coined as “the city that never sleeps.” DJs like Larry Levan and clubs like the Paradise Garage were the reason behind that catchphrase. “This is why I am reaching out to everyone to support this worthy cause for a pioneer so deserving as Larry Levan,” says Cruz.

“If there is ANY event for the dance music community to be present and make our case to New York City, this is it. The time is now. Our sole reason for doing this is for Larry’s legacy. People like Larry made the music history that is New York City; and recognition of his accomplishment is something that to date is way overdue.” Continuing: “Since the closing of the Garage and Larry’s passing, many have carried the torch that is Paradise Garage. Thanks to people like David DePino, Joey Llanos, former members and the endless numbers of faithful who kept the tradition strong for over 35 years and counting.”

Summing it up rather matter-of-factly, Cruz says, “The masses of people who converged to 84 King Street, his work with major artists that remain highly regarded 30 years later, and the inspiration he gave that continues to flow today are the reasons why we are doing this. Mention NYC club history to any DJ out there, and the name Larry Levan will be spoken.”


Red Bull Music Academy Festival New York:

Saturday Mass article by Peter Shapiro:

Red Bull Music Academy presents Larry Levan Street Party:

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