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DJ and dance culture pioneer David Mancuso dies aged 72

David Mancuso, the pioneering New York DJ whose underground parties helped set the scene for the disco explosion, has died. As The Guardian reports, his friend Craig Shifty made the announcement about Mancuso’s passing last night. No cause of death has been revealed. Mancuso was 72.

Mancuso started DJing in the mid-’60s, and in 1970, he threw his first invite-only party at the Loft, his legendary space. The Loft wasn’t a club; it started out in Mancuso’s own apartment, though it moved locations throughout the years. And because Mancuso wasn’t charging for entry, the space wasn’t subject to scrutiny from New York’s nightlife authorities.

At his parties, Mancuso strove to create a welcoming, anything-goes atmosphere. You could make a compelling case that he was the first real disco DJ, since many other pioneers based their own clubs on what Mancuso did with the loft. As a DJ, he strove to create holistic, psychedelic experiences, taking dancers on a journey and using the best audio equipment available. Mancuso was still throwing invite-only Loft parties in recent years, and everyone I’ve known who’s been to one has spoken of it in hushed, reverent tones.

For more on Mancuso and on the early days of disco, I’d urge you to check out Tim Lawrence’s great 2004 book Love Saves The Day. Mancuso might be the hero of that book, which Lawrence named after Mancuso’s first party.

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