Dance music culture as we know it today owes much to the seminal New York City scene of the '70s and '80s, and pioneering DJs like John "Jellybean" Benitez. While he would go on to an illustrious career as a producer, putting his Midas touch on chart-topping hits by the likes of Madonna and Whitney Houston, Benitez' artistic identity today remains firmly rooted in that golden era of nightlife he helped found.
On his fondest memories of that time, Benitez tells Crossfade: "I was able to witness and hear some of the greatest DJs in NYC during their prime, at the residency that made them famous. For example, Larry Levan at the Paradise Garage, David Mancuso at the Loft, and Richie Kaczor at Studio 54."
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Of course, American dance music has gone through considerable change since the free-spirited libertine days of the NYC scene and underground clubs like the Paradise Garage. For one thing, EDM is now a commercial music phenomenon that's overtaken the mainstream, drawing millions to corporate-sponsored music festivals and lining the pockets of richer-than-ever superstar DJs.
"Nightlife and the dance music scene have changed dramatically," says Benitez. "However, the foundations exist, people are allowed to go on the dance floor, get lost in the music and forget their troubles.
"I grew up listening to soul music, and a lot of EDM music, I believe, is lacking that passion," he says. "It is not to say it is bad, because every artist is entitled to express themselves, and music is a medium to express yourself, and there is obviously an audience for EDM."
Perhaps in light of that nostalgia, or simply a righteous reverence for the golden oldies of his early DJ days, Benitez is keeping the soul alive with his Studio 54 Radio show on SiriusXM.
"Studio 54 Radio is programmed from my extensive music library and music that's been given to me by my peers," he explains. "The listener is granted access to the dance floor of Studio 54 by listening to this channel. We play only disco songs that were played in the actual club, not the entire disco era."
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Join the legendary Jellybean at Do Not Sit on the Furniture on Saturday for a time machine trip to the exuberant dance floors of disco's past and feel the spirit.
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Jellybean Benitez. Presented by Jellybean Soul and Ain't Nuthin' But A House Party. Saturday, July 26. Do Not Sit on the Furniture, 423 16th St., Miami Beach. The show starts at 10 p.m. Call 305-450-3809 or visit facebook.com/DoNotSit.