When placed in chains, they created spirituals that gave birth to much of the music you hear today.
Gave them tough, green leaves — long thought to be degenerative cabbage shoots — and the resulting simmered collard greens they made have graced the menus of countless restaurants.
Shut their writers out of the mainstream publishing industry, and one of the greatest creative nodes in the modern history of letters was born.
Alienated them from mainstream nightlife and they then created a club experience the world now wants to be a part of.
With dance music innovator David Mancuso’s passing, we celebrate him as well as the indefatigable, trend-driving aesthetic of the downtrodden.
I’m referring to the underground soldiers of music culture, led by generals like Mancuso, whose gains on the creative battlefield have been, and will continue to be, felt for decades, even though you may never see widespread acknowledgement of these victories.
When Mancuso threw a series of loft parties between 1965 and 1970 — a precursor to opening his SOHO Manhattan club-but-not-a-club named The Loft — most New Yorkers felt there was no rational reason to visit Lower Manhattan.
The factory buildings and warehouses were not yet replaced by eight-figure condos and posh boutiques.
The sidewalks were not yet flooded with shoppers, wannabe celebrities and people watchers.
In fact, SOHO, the acronym for SOuth of HOuston Street, was simply another chapter in New York’s real estate development segregation story.
As the meme went back then, “acceptable” New Yorkers didn’t live near rivers, a traditional NYC home for the poor, people of color and other outcasts; a night out that involved traveling to the uptown or downtown regions of Manhattan was viewed as breaking an unwritten social law, while hosting parties in most lofts was a crime.
Therefore, NYC’s cultural, economic and political vectors formed an urban apartheid that alienated people who lived, loved, looked, wrote, painted, designed, listened to music or danced differently from the mainstream.
And New York’s downtrodden, the Wretched of The City, found Mancuso’s loft parties to be a safe place to freely indulge their dance music passions — without the need of a mainstream blessing for existence.
The Loft’s unofficial rules of conduct contributed to the formation of a social code for underground dance clubs — and were later “discovered” by the mainstream.
More clubs these days than ever aren’t as tight-azzed about dress codes — you come as you are.
More clubs have chosen not to serve as your lonely heart hook-up parlour. You come to dance or vibe to the music.
Inclusive clubs like The Loft don’t need an idiotically-restrictive door policy.
Regardless of music genre, a song gets played if it sounds good — and you can celebrate that song without guilt or judgment.
And when the downtrodden gather to dance, the strength of community developed each time is likened to being in church.
The term “Loft Party” has become a brand that conveys a message of ultra coolness to patrons.
Mancuso influenced all these modern club trends.
(Laughing) I blame Mancuso for why I only wear jeans, shorts and sneakers to a club.
Mancuso’s mark on music is undisputed. Much of the music he played as a DJ in the 60s and 70s continue to serve as the DNA for building future House Music anthems, Techno floor fillers and Future Soul beats. Plus, many of his music selections can still be heard in clubs, in their original form.
Said differently, Mancuso and his music are reasons why Electronic Dance Music (EDM) is so hot today.
Mancuso also influenced DJs — from departed legends to aspiring selectors — to decide what songs to put on their memory cards or in their record bags each night.
Rest in Love, Brother David. I’ve been playing Loft songs in your memory for the past week.
Like Sun Palace’s “Rude Movements.”
Brian Briggs’ “Aeo.”
PowerLine ’s “Journey.”
Rhythm Makers’ Zone.
Karma’s “High Priestess.”
And Steve Miller Band’s “Macho City.”