Elevator Music 37: David Mancuso — The Loft invites visitors to experience the soundscape of the Loft, the legendary New York City dance party hosted by David Mancuso (1944–2016) that set the stage for the underground dance parties and gay nightlife of the ‘70s and '80s. The Loft parties were a weekly event held in Mancuso’s home in NoHo beginning in 1970. Emerging from the tradition of Harlem rent parties, in which many African-American renters hosted parties to raise money for inflated housing costs, the Loft was both economically, racially, and sexually diverse. During a period in which LGBT+ people were shunned and criminalized for displaying homosexual behaviors in public, the Loft offered a space for people to express themselves without fear of judgment or arrest.
Essential to the Loft was Mancuso’s high-quality sound system and the music he played — a mix of cross-genre beats ranging from soul and R&B to Latin jazz and Afrofunk. In 1999, Mancuso worked with the British independent record label Nuphonic to make a two-disc compilation set from the Loft days. One CD features up-tempo songs played earlier in the night, such as an extended dance version of “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now” by Risco Connection and the dance ballad “Spirits In It” by Patti LaBelle. The other disc features atmospheric rhythms for a late-night set, including Manu Dibango’s hit, “Soul Makossa,” and the downtempo jazz track “High Priestess” by Karma. The combined two-hour playlist reveals the ever-evolving sound of Mancuso’s parties — especially designed to take the listener from one mood to the next, but always dancing.