American DJ and producer.
Born: 20 July 1954 in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, NYC, NY.
Died: 8 November 1992 in Beth Israel Medical Center, Manhattan, NYC, NY (aged 38).
Levan is revered primarily as the DJ and driving force of the famous gay-friendly disco Paradise Garage. With engineer Richard Long, he custom-designed the Garage's sound system and DJ booth, complete with audiophile Thorens turntables.
Levan's brilliance lay not only in his technical skill and audio expertise, but also in his eclectic taste. He broadened the 'rules' of what dance music could be, mixing everything from gospel, reggae, Philly soul and Euro-disco to rock (e.g. Stevie Nicks "Stand Back", and The Who "Eminence Front"), post-punk (e.g. The Clash "The Magnificent Seven", and many Talking Heads tracks), ambient/environmental music (e.g. Klaus Schulze and Manuel Gottsching) and just about everything else. He augmented his sets with disorienting sound effects and audio manipulations, working the crossover and balance controls to throw sound around the room as if it had a will of its own.
Cutting his musical teeth at The Loft; essentially the first underground after-hours disco, which was started by David Mancuso at the advent of the 1970s. The Loft combined psychedelic culture with proto-disco music, which then consisted of long-form, psychedelic-influenced soul (e.g. Booker T & The MG's "Melting Pot", The Temptations "Papa Was a Rolling Stone", et al.), jazz-funk (e.g. The Blackbyrds), funky rock (e.g. Barabas "Woman") and trippy head music like Pink Floyd "Dark Side Of The Moon". When club Paradise Garage opened in 1976, Levan added gospel and R&B-flavored disco to his musical menu.
After the Garage closed in 1987, Levan kept a considerably lower profile, doing guest spots at various clubs, including Studio 54, Palladium, and Mars, and DJ-ing regularly at The Choice – arguably the inheritor of the Garage's underground legacy. The Choice didn't have the grandeur of the Garage, but Levan made it his home, casting his psychedelic spell on a diverse crowd of devoted Garage fans and various other after-hours types.
Levan was voluntarily hospitalized at Beth Israel Medical Center after returning to New York following a Japanese tour. Three days after being released into the care of his mother, he was re-hospitalized at Beth Israel with hemorrhoid symptoms. He died, aged 38, of heart failure caused by endocarditis at 18:15 EST, Sunday 8 November 1992.