RIP Darryl Pandy & Kenny Hawkes

Sadness today as house fans woke up to the news that DJ Kenny Hawkes & Vocalist Darryl Pandy had both died….

House Music morns the deaths of 2 of its brightest “old skool” stars in 1 single day. Both UK DJ/ Producer Kenny Hawkes and U.S vocalist Darryl Pandy have died. Just as we were reeling from the sad news that one of house music’s most famous voices had passed away, we receive news late last night to say that Kenny too has passed away following an illness.

Singer and Chicago house pioneer Darryl Pandy had been seriously ill for months, leading to several benefit shows for him, according to 5 Chicago, a house music magazine. Pandy featured on many, many dance tracks scattered across dozens of 12” singles on many labels worldwide over the years. But its the lead vocal on Chicago DJ Farley Keith’s (aka Farley Jackmaster Funk) track “Love Can’t Turn Around” he is most famous for.   In August 1986, the single entered the UK singles chart, climbing to a number ten position by 27 Sept. The record was credited to its producers – Farley ‘Jackmaster’ Funk and Jessie Saunders – but it was the vocalist who stole the show when the song made it on to Top of the Pops. Darryl Pandy had been a singer in the choir of the Church of Universal Awareness in Chicago, and he brought all of his gospel experience to an incredible live vocal performance on Top of the Pops, though I doubt he learned to dance around in a sparkly top, kick of his shoes and lie on the floor in church!

In the conventional history of house music in the UK the impression is sometimes given that it all started when the South London clubbing crew (Rampling, Oakenfold etc.) returned from their 1987 Ibiza holiday and started putting on club nights. But a full year before that Darryl Pandy had detonated the house explosion, followed shortly after by Jack Your Body – a number one record in January 1987 for Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley. Incidentally Hurley had shared a flat with Farley Keith in Chicago, and had himself produced an earlier house version of Isaac Hayes’ I Can’t Turn Around.

It is true that in these early days there wasn’t a distinct UK house scene as such, but on dancefloors in London, Manchester and elsewhere early house tracks like Love Can’t Turn Around took their place alongside other great electronic dance and funk tracks. I think we can say without a shadow of a doubt that Darry Pandy’s incredible voice helped the burgeoning genre cross over into mainstream success, and exposed many listeners to house music for the first time.

Kenny Hawkes too left his imprint on the house music scene, perhaps more in the underground rather than the commercial arena (as was the case with Pandy). This did not mean he was any less a pioneer of the scene. Brighton born Kenny began DJing for the now (in)famous Pirate Radio Station “Girls FM” in the early 90’s. It wasn’t long before Kenny ended up managing the station, and in no time it was attracting up to a million listeners a month. It soon boasted 22 DJs, one of whom was Luke Solomon, who soon became Kenny’s greatest friend and fellow resident at London’s longest running mid-week house club, “Space” at Bar Rumba.

Kenny Hawkes on Girls FM – 1st Birthday Thursday 15th April 1995 by kennyhawkes

Space closed its doors for the final time in February 2002, after seven brilliant years as London’s tour de force within the global house community. Kenny and Luke prided themselves on bringing into the fold the world’s greatest spinners – such as Harvey, Stacey Pullen, Tom Middleton, DJ Heather, Francois K, DJ Sneak, Pete Heller, Mark Farina, Colin Dale and Derrick Carter – where they would play for a pint, a packet of crisps and their cab fare home.

Production wise his biggest club hit was 2003′s Play The Game, a groundbreaking track that remains startlingly contemporary, other amazing productions that spring to mind include “Ashley’s War”, “Sleaze Walking” and “Dance With Me” featuring “Marcel” and “Kimra”.

Other than his tracks, the DJing & the club nights above all Kenny was one of the nicest blokes you could meet. I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking to him on numerous occasions and whether it was for business, or just socially, he had the kind of none ego attitude you seem to only see from the true old school talent these days (a lot of the “new breed” of DJs could learn a thing or 2 from him that’s for sure!) I recall one time him having to wait about for hours for his wages after a gig we’d booked him for, he sat quite happily cracking jokes telling us “not to worry he’d just hang out”… A true talent, legend & more to the point a true gent… He’ll be sorely missed by many, many people in the industry. Josh Wink, Gilles Petterson and DJ Paulette were amongst scores of big name DJs who paid tribute on Twitter:

“Kenny Hawkes RIP…used to love it when you’d come and hang in Bar Rumba…very sad news tonight…” said Gilles….

“R.I.P Kenny Hawkes,” Jesse Rose concurred, “feels like only yesterday i was dancing to you at plastic people, thinking i gotta become a house dj. a super influence.”

Both artists were legends and pioneers in their own right & will leave their imprint on house music forever… Thank you both for leaving us all with your legacies. RIP… x

Please feel free to leave your memories of Pandy and Kenny his music in the comments box…