Paradise Garage and West End Records founder Mel Cheren has passed away of an AIDS-related illness.
Dubbed ‘The Godfather of Disco’, Mel Cheren was a key player in the underground New York disco scene of the mid-seventies. In 1976 he co-founded West End Records, which released some of the most formative tracks of the disco era, including ‘Hot Shot’ by Karen Young, Loose Joints’ ‘Is It All Over My Face?’ and Raw Silk's ‘Do It To the Music.’
Cheren was also a key backer of the legendary nightclub Paradise Garage in the West Village, where Larry Levan made his name as a DJ. Cheren and partner Michael Brody set up the venue as a private nightclub which sold no alcohol, a move which enabled the club to escape licensing laws and encouraged marathon DJ sets. One of the first music and not fashion-focused nightclubs, the Paradise Garage is often regarded as a precursor to the modern house and techno clubs which would follow in its wake.
In the eighties and nineties, Cheren went on to become an AIDS activist, donating office space to the Gay Men's Health Crisis out of his Chelsea home, and working for AIDS charities including 24 Hours for Life and Lifebeat.
In 2000, Cheren published a memoir, My Life and the Paradise Garage: Keep on Dancin', which became the basis of a feature length documentary, suitably titled The Goldfather of Disco. The documentary did the festival rounds this summer.