New York disco legend and AIDS activist Mel Cheren, who set up the Paradise Garage and helped pioneer 12 inch records and DJ promotion record pools, died this week, aged 74,
His death, ironically from an AIDS related illness, came two years after he was inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame with their Lifetime Achievement Award and seven years after he published his acclaimed autobiography ‘My Life And the Paradise Garage: Keep On Dancin’.
“Mel was very extremely influential in the disco/dance movement,” said close friend and original 70s Fire Island DJ Barry Lederer. “He helped establish the first record pool in the world with David Mancuso and Judy Weinstein and with his life partner Mike Brody, they opened up the Paradise Garage.”
Speaking to British magazine One Week To Live last year, Mel spoke enthusiastically about his life and urged people to copy his example in following their enthusiasms.
“I tell kids over and over again, when you’re choosing your career, don’t choose something unless you have a real passion for it. Even if it’s sweeping the street, if it’s something you enjoy, you’ll be great,” he said.
“To me, that one word, passion, is probably one of the most important words in the English language. That’s [the] one thing that makes or breaks a person’s career, because you can’t do a good job unless you’re really passionate about what you’re doing,” he added.
In the early 80s, Mel devoted his energies increasingly to tackling the AIDS crisis, turning over his house to the Gay Men’s Health Crisis centre and establishing 24 hours for a life, an organization that helps people in the music industry suffering from AIDs.
“Unfortunately AIDS is as prevalent today as it was when it first appeared,” Barry Lederer added, “However, what is happening today is that many of the younger people in their 20s, do not remember what a catastrophe this disease is. Since it is on the back burner of the news today, too many people are not protecting themselves against it; until a cure is found every precaution still must be taken,” he stressed.
http://www.gmhc.org (‘A tireless advocate for people living with HIV and for the gay community, Mel's fierce activism sustained him throughout his life. Earlier this year, we were honored to share GMHC's 25th anniversary with Mel's birthday at a magical reunion of the Paradise Garage. The spirit of love and joy that he brought to that celebration and to all of his life will always sustain us. - Marjorie J. Hill, Ph.D. CEO Gay Men's Health Crisis)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HRVniXFVR6o (The Paradise Garage, Larry Levan, Mel Cheren . . .’)
Jonty Skrufff (Skrufff.com)