New york, NY. (Top40 Charts/ West End Records) - We bid adieu to a pivotal figure in the dance music scene with the passing of West End Records founder and activist Melvin Cheren (January 21, 1933 – December 7, 2007). May he rest in peace and continue to inspire us and throughout future generations.
Affectionately known as 'The Godfather of Disco' for his championing of DJ's, dance music and club culture from the early days of the Disco Movement, Mel began his five decade career in the music business at ABC/Paramount, where he eventually became Head of Production.
He held the same position when he moved to Scepter Records. During his tenure at Scepter he was responsible for many innovations such as the first 12 inch record for DJ's and the first instrumental mix on the B-side, earning Scepter the 'Trendsetter of the Year' Award from Billboard in 1974. With a former Scepter colleague he formed his own company, West End Records in 1976, which has been associated for over 30 years with enduring dance classics like 'Hot Shot' and 'Heartbeat.' In recent years West End released popular compilation CD's of remixes and live performances by legendary Paradise Garage DJ Larry Levan.
Mel was the financial backer of the landmark club created by his former life-partner Michael Brody. This history is well documented in Cheren's autobiography, MY LIFE AND THE PARADISE GARAGE: KEEP ON DANCIN' published in 2000 and in a recent documentary, THE GODFATHER OF DISCO. In 2005 Mel was inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame with their Lifetime Achievement Award, an honor which meant a great deal to him.
For all of his accomplishments in the music industry, Mel was most proud of his work in support of various causes and charities and in particular his efforts in support of the LGBT Community and the fight against AIDS. He was part of the vanguard of gay men who first responded to the AIDS crisis in New York in the early Eighties and gave GMHC their first home in his Chelsea brownstone which he later operated for over 20 years as a successful bed-and-breakfast, the Colonial House Inn. He was the founder of [b]24 Hours For Life, an AIDS charity that was the fiscal sponsor for LIFEbeat, on whose Board he served as a Charter Director.
Mel was also quietly a friend to many friends and strangers in need as well as an accomplished painter. A large number of Mel's works of art memorialize friends lost to AIDS.
It is a sad irony that he is a fatality of the same health crisis that he fought so long to eradicate. Even in his last days he took a stand for AIDS prevention in a cautionary interview aired on the LOGO channel throughout the week of World AIDS Day. Mel Cheren is survived and will be greatly missed by many family members, prominent among them being Illya Dehktyar, Mark Cheren and Barry Cherin, as well as a large extended family of close friends, colleagues and fellow activists. An announcement will soon be made about a memorial service/celebration and various memorial benefit parties taking place over the third weekend in January which would have marked his 75th birthday.
Donations in Mel's honor can be made to GMHC, 119 West 24th Street, New York, New York 10011; The LGBT Community Center at 208 West 13th Street, New York, New York 10011; or LIFEbeat, 630 9th Avenue Suite 1010 New York, New York 10036.