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by Barry Walters

August 29, 2013

A Night with Larry Levan

by Barry Walters  |  August 29, 2013

Some deem Larry Levan (1954-92) the greatest DJ ever. Many more consider the Paradise Garage the greatest nightclub ever. These superlatives can be debated, but what's certain is that this legendary venue gave a nurturing home to club culture between 1976 and 1987 as if Saturday Night Fever never happened and disco hadn't been declared dead in its wake. It was the bridge between the underground sound of LGBT New York in the immediate aftermath of Stonewall (in the '60s, it was actually illegal for men to dance together in NYC) and the house music that eventually became an international mainstream phenomena.

The Paradise Garage sold no liquor. You had to either be a member or know one to get in. The crowd was primarily black, Latin and gay, although hip straights and whites were welcome. And it was open from 'round about midnight until well after daylight. It was all about dancing all night long, and that focus brought people together in a way that didn't ordinarily happen in Koch-era Manhattan. It was church for those ordinarily deemed sinners. Levan made it so with his mercurial but always spiritual vibe. Although he had a drug problem that worsened as AIDS claimed his friends and ultimately his boss and club, Levan was the Hendrix of the turntables: When he was on, he was on -- he made you feel that music like a preacher spreading knowledge of a higher power.

We're honoring him with an all-night playlist featuring eight hours of Levan favorites, productions and remixes. This music spans genres from R&B to funk to jazz to New Wave and ultimately house -- and it's all deep.

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