Mel Cheren is better known as the Godfather of Disco – others referred to him as Uncle Mel. Whichever name was used, both capture the familial feeling ascribed to Mel Cheren, the pioneer who made fundamental contributions to disco music and culture, and nurtured its extended community.
Pioneer. Activist. Survivor. The Godfather of Disco is a documentary based on Mel Cheren’s autobiography, My Life and the Paradise Garage: Keep on Dancin’. Through a series of interviews with a who’s who of the dance music community, Mel’s extraordinary story is recounted.
From his beginnings in Boston to his first job at a record label in New York City. From the origins of Disco to its peak in the late 70s to its inevitable crash and the onslaught of HIV/AIDS, Mel was there. He turned his pain into power by using the music he loved most as a weapon in the fight against AIDS.
This documentary is also a great time capsule for what was a great era in New York City club culture; the burgeoning disco sound, unified dance floors consisting of every race and sex and a record label that wasn’t afraid to take chances on left field dance music.
The documentary does a nice job of highlighting some of the classic releases of the era, the history of the 12 inch record, the marksmanship of Larry Levan and the significance of Paradise Garage.
The film does a great job on the social front – illustrating the struggles of the gay community, their push for equality within the club circuit and the horrible, unfortunate grip the HIV epidemic had within the scene.
Having heavy-weights like Danny Krivit, Marley Marl, Nicky Siano, Louie Vega, Kevin Hedge, Johnny Dynell, Barbara Tucker, Joey Llanos, Louis Benedetti, Jellybean Benítez, Joi Cardwell and many more weighing in throughout is an added bonus for the discerning music fan.
Even if you’re not a fan of the boogie-disco era, it’s still worth the watch if you’re a documentary buff. Definitely worth two hours of your precious time.
Mel passed away December 7, 2007… click here