On Sunday morning I awoke to news nobody ever wants to hear; an important figure in the stitches of their life's musical quilt had passed away. Most people who live their lives outside of nightlife have no idea who I'm speaking of and if that's you, you will most likely cease reading this. Most all of the people in nightlife only know him as the voice of Daft Punk's "One More Time" which just a few months ago was voted by Mixmag readers the prestige of "Greatest Dance Track of All Time." My better half, Daniela and my good friend Kevin conspired to keep the news from me by selling this idea to me that since I was attending day two of Electric Daisy Carnival that I should take a break from social media and just enjoy myself. I'm glad they did this as finding out this kind of news while out in the night just makes it all so much worse. I spent hours on Sunday afternoon just listening to Romanthony's music and crying elephant tears, trying to make sense out of his death, wishing for answers to endless unanswered questions. I felt numb, like a part of the most innocent side of me had passed with him. I couldn't articulate my thoughts yesterday but now feel a compulsion to share with you some of what he meant to me and to the rest of those who lived among his mastery.
Once the sobbing stopped, I could better realize what it was that made me so upset about this. Ten days ago, in a strange turn of events I took to Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr to post up different things including his masterpiece, Romanworld in its entirety (if you feel compelled to honor him you should listen to it in full). I even mentioned him in my piece last week for Huffington Post about Daft Punk. He is forever tied to them for their union on a song that will never sound the same again... "One More Time." This man's struggle and soul could even shine through auto-tune while still sounding so amazingly warm. That track still has the same effect in a club as it did the day it appeared to all of us in late 2000. I've never witnessed that track flop on a dance floor; I don't think I can say that of a single other record. Daft Punk tapped into the music of the ages and Romanthony created a vocal that will never not make sense.
What's so incredibly hard to believe is that "One More Time" is not my favorite track of his by any means. Too many to mention, highlights include "Trust," "Bring You Up," "Make This Love Right," "Falling From Grace" and "Ministry Of Love." In last weeks piece that I wrote I mentioned his "Hold On" which I said then always brought me to tears. In it (who I was always told was) Malcolm X states "you don't have to have to bow to nothing you don't want to bow down to." I thought about what I learned from Romanthony -- whether he tried to teach it or not -- and I will never, ever forget the moments on countless dance floors on countless journeys of the mind where his words meant everything to me. To put that kind of fearlessness into art and teach it to others is nothing short of the best thing ever. "Let Me Show You Love" would eventually come on in any good night of House Music and the moment that vocal dropped, everyone -- no matter how loveless -- felt Romanthony's love and believed in it.
As a teenager I was steeped in the Beat Generation and its literature, vibe and ethos. Then it should be no surprise that "The Wanderer" was the record of his that made the most sense to me mid-flight on the dance floor. In that masterpiece he sang, "There nothing left for me, no matter where I go. So I'll keep on wandering, 'till i lose control." The moments I was the most lost on the dance floor in the 90's (and there were many), Romanthony always lead me back & lifted me up. His music touched me in a place that most music did not and recently I had dug out his albums to rediscover the genius of them.
What is so surreal about all of this is that he passed on May 7 and it took almost two weeks to hit the rest of us. In a time of technological overload, this man even eluded us for weeks even after his own death. He moved to Austin, Texas which is as far away from his home of New Jersey and maybe he planned it that way. He was known in the 90s to be the great mystery of House Music -- he rarely did interviews (he felt he didn't deserve the attention), always avoided the spotlight in whatever ways he could and communicated solely via his music. This man turned down countless major label deals and even a chance to cover Prince. No artist in House Music had more integrity and held their ground more steadfast than he did. He was misunderstood and constantly called a genius for a decade. Then people just stopped talking about him, strangely just one day he was on everyone's mind and the next, it began to fade. This is the cruelest moment of any artist's career when the zeitgeist slips out of your hand and you fall to the ground. Few have the chutzpah to get back up. He never stopped doing exactly what he wanted and that is upon the long list of things I always admired him for. Last summer I had sent him some music and we communicated several times about how he was going to top line a few of the tracks. It was such an honor to even be in email communication with such a legend it felt like a dream. In an email from the end of last year, Romanthony told me this: "I'm hoping your production makes you happy, that's all we can do."
If you were around House Music circles in the 90s, you both remember and understand the raw emotional power that Romanthony had and agree with me here that we lost the most important voice of the second generation of House Music; without Romanthony, music will never be the same. I love you Romanthony; may you be at peace in a better place that understands you better than we did. R.I.P.