Mel Cheren passed away yesterday. This wonderful man was a seminal part of the dance music, nightclub, and AIDS charity worlds. He was the innovator of the 12-inch DJ single, one of the people most instrumental in commercially releasing a fledgling style of music called “disco,” and the co-founder of West End Records, which produced legendary records by Karen Young (“Hot Shot”) and Taana Gardner (“Heartbeat”), among others.
He was the financial backer behind The Paradise Garage. Try to find a copy of his 2000 book My Life and the Paradise Garage: Keep Dancin’ for a terrific look at his life. He donated the office space for GMHC in its early years, and in 1987 formed 24 Hours for Life, which served as the founding fiscal sponsor for LIFEbeat, The Music Industry Fights AIDS. He was an active board member at LIFEbeat until his death.
Mel was warm, witty, and sweet. He loved music, truly supported artists, and never tired of looking for talented newcomers to promote. He revolutionized dance music, opened one of the greatest nightclubs in history, and used his energies and resources to help in the fight against AIDS for 25 years. When you go out tonight – and you should – blow a kiss to the disco ball and remember a wonderful man.
– Chip Duckett