Harry Dennis (musician)
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|Origin||Chicago, Illinois, United States|
|Years active||1980s – present|
|Associated acts||Curtis McClain|
Harry Dennis (sometimes spelled "Harri") was born in Chicago, Illinois. He is considered one of the "pioneers" of house music due to his emergence as an artist around the same time as house music in the late 70s to early 1980s. Dennis developed a distinct writing style and writes his own lyrics. He delivers a deep house sound and has produced house music for 25+ years. Dennis describes himself is a pioneer, a consummate artist and a house music guru.
Dennis is a native Chicagoan who completed his elementary and high school education in Chicago Public Schools (CPS). While attending college at Illinois State University (ISU), he incorporated drama and music into his core studies and discovered his penchant for songwriting and lyric development. While on college breaks, he routinely attended Chicago venues where his music and songwriting interest solidified. In 1982, Dennis graduated from Illinois State University (ISU), returned to Chicago to work, and begin his music career. A frequent partygoer, he met Robert Williams, owner/operator of a local nightclub—the Warehouse that catered to house music enthusiasts (aka "househeads"). When the Warehouse closed in 1983, the Music Box nightclub was opened by Williams, continuing the house music momentum. At the Warehouse, Dennis cites meeting Frankie Knuckles, a well-known radio and disc jockey from New York, as being instrumental in introducing house music to Chicago. Watching Knuckles' expertise at the turntables and his ability to create/mix beats that the audiences quickly embraced was a turning point in Dennis's life. After becoming friends and acquaintances with Knuckles and other leading members of the house music industry during its initial years, Dennis decided that being a lyricist was a natural fit and would allow him to segue into the house music industry.
Dennis said that among the many artists he met in his first decade in the business, he was most influenced by a mixologist, disc jockey, and music producer named Ron Hardy. He cites Hardy's expertise as being uniquely different and electrifying. "Ron Hardy was masterful in his talent and had a keen ear for music. Like Frankie Knuckles, he stood out." Dennis remembered Hardy as being a charismatic individual with very high energy and a love of house music, and that Hardy complemented the craft. In reflecting on the years he knew Hardy, Dennis commented that they were great friends and interacted more like brothers than colleagues.
Dennis began his recording career in 1983 and in 1985, he released "Donnie". Dennis characterizes his style as being similar to Gil Scott Heron's beat poet delivery, and says that he often uses few words to describe feelings, scenes, and situations. His lyrical style is typically considered "deep" because he contrasts the sociopolitical aspects of life with natural inclinations. Dennis is considered one of the "Godfathers of House Music" because of his tenure in the business and his adaptability and creativity in creating new music. He is featured Godfather in a video produced by Openhouse Recordings.
Music career profile: 1980s–1990s
Dennis's first success as a writer/lyricist was the 1985 hit single Donnie. He formed a group named "The It" with artists Larry Heard and Robert Owens. Donnie was launched on the Chicago underground house scene (with Chip E. as producer) in 1985. Its popularity on the house scene quickly spread to the east coast. Donnie was distributed worldwide by DJ International in 1986. Chip E. was instrumental in launching Dennis's career and contributed to the success of Donnie.
During 1986–1989, Dennis was recruited to Trax Records by Marshall Jefferson, who is considered the originator of acid house. Together, they formed the group Jungle Wonz. Under the Trax Records label, they recorded the house hits Time Marches On and Jungle.
In 1988, Fingers Inc., a group formed by producer/musician Larry Heard, Dennis, Larry, and musician/DJ Robert Owens, produced Distant Planet with Dennis as writer and vocalist. The single was released under the Indigo Music/Jack Trax label. Dennis also collaborated as lyricist and vocalist with Robert Owens and Larry Heard to record the single Gallimaufry Gallery, which was released under the Black Market International label. During 1990–1991, Dennis penned other house favorites working with Larry Heard. Under the Big Life Records label, they recorded an album in London and released In This Place Called Nowhere, Endless Journey, Brazilian Love Dance, Rain Forest Serenade, When Will We Learn, Endless Flight, Living For The Man, and Brazilian Love Dance (Interlude). In 1993, and Marshall Jefferson collaborated and released on YouTube on the Trax Record label.
Music career profile: 2000 – present
Ending a sabbatical in 2005, Dennis returned with new material and new ideas.
While working on a new album, Dennis appeared as a guest on one or more occasions, streaming live on the internet for Chicago House Radio, WHPK 88.5 FM, and Triton College. He provided voiceover on tracks for disc jockeys. Dennis also performed live at various Chicago hot spots, including the Regal Theater, the House Spot, House of Blues, the Shrine, and The Club. He often shared the stage with fellow house music artist Curtis McClain.
Dennis' business affiliations include house music execs such as Marshall Jefferson, Chauncey Alexander and David Dee of Openhouserecordings, Inc. His and Jefferson's camaraderie and business relationship started during the 1980s with the formation of the group Jungle Wonz. Under the Open House Recording label, a new album was released in June 2011 entitled Jungle Wonz: The Jungle Sky EP, produced by Marshall Jefferson. This album included an updated version of the original "The Jungle" recording, along with several renditions of a new single, "Kiss the Sky", written by Dennis, Curtis McClain and Marshall Jefferson. Other projects include producer Jerry C. King of Kingdom Records to produce and release Grey Afternoon and Get Up; Ron Trent of Prescription Records to produce and release Urban Blues, Nights Like These, Beautiful Night, The Ron Hardy Dedication, Altered States (The Mothership Version), and We're So Deep.
Following the 2012 release of his album, The Jungle Wonz: Deliverance, Dennis was featured on Chicago's Black Business Network, interviewed by founder and host, Sonja Perdue. The live interview, Legend Harry Dennis Unleashes 21st Century House Music streamed live over the internet to broadcast listeners.
In 2013, he penned and released a new single, "No Matter," produced by Ricard Perez on the Epoque Music label.
In September 2014, Alleviated Records released an album entitled "The IT", another of Dennis's and Larry Heard's collaborations. "The IT EP" contains two singles by Dennis titled Beauty in a Picture and Somebody Somewhere.
Dennis attends and/or performs annually in the Chosen Few Music Festival (aka Chosen Few Picnic) held in Chicago, Illinois. This annual event is considered the largest house party event in Chicago with thousands of former and new "househeads" attending each year.
Dennis continues to work projects involving lyric development, vocals, and collaboration. He has been featured on cable and radio shows, and performs at nightclub venues, private parties and citywide events. His former and current recordings may be found on YouTube, Soundcloud, Tranxsource, Beatport, Amazon, Discogs, Juno Records, InnerDisc, HardWax, Kingdom Records, ZIPPYSENSE, Spotify, Butzz, Mixcrate Music, etc.
Dennis was a featured house music artist at the 2016 Chosen Few Picnic held July 2–3 in Chicago, Illinois. This event was featured in an article by Arts and Entertainment editor Mary L. Datcher in the Chicago Defender. The Chosen Few Picnic, considered one of the largest house music events in the United States, features the leading house musicians in the business, and draws an estimated 60,000 "househeads" annually, including vocal artists, DJs, musicians and producers. An article in 5chicago.com by a staff writer described the event as "House music's souled-up Woodstock!"
- 1986 – Donnie
- 1986 – The Jungle
- 1987 – Time Marches On
- 1988 – Distant Planet
- 1988 – Gallimaufry Gallery
- 1990 – In This Place Called Nowhere
- 1990 – Rainforest Serenade
- 1990 – Endless Journey
- 1990 – Brazilian Love Dance
- 1990 – Endless Flight
- 1990 – Living For The Man
- 1993 – Bird in a Gilded Cage
- 2011 – The Jungle (Remake)
- 2011 – Kiss The Sky
- 2012 – Up
- 2012 – The Jungle
- 2012 – Deliverance
- 2012 – Rainforest Serenade
- 2012 – Ancestors Walk
- 2012 – Time Marches On
- 2012 – 20 Paces From the Moon
- 2012 – Beautiful Nights
- 2012 – Mystic Voyage
- 2012 – Grey Afternoon
- 2012 – Season's Rain
- 2012 – Urban Blues
- 2012 – We're So Deep
- 2012 – Nights Like These
- 2012 – Get Up
- 2012 – Loving Every Moment (Just To Be With You)
- 2013 – Mystic Voyage (instrumental)
- 2013 – No Matter
- 2013 – Little Boy
- 2013 – She Got Problem
- 2014 – Somebody Somewhere
- 2014 – Beauty in a Picture
- 2015 – Spanish Sunrise
- 2015 – Funky Nursery Rhyme
- 2016 – Penderstreet Steppers vs. Harry Dennis
- 1987 – Trax Records (Sampler)
- 1988 – Jungle Wonz (The Justin Strauss Remixes)
- 1988 – Fingers Inc. (Another Side)
- 1990 – The It (On Top Of The World)
- 1995 – Mr. Fingers (Classic Fingers)
- 2011 – Jungle Wonz: The Jungle Sky EP
- 2012 – Jungle Wonz: Deliverance
- 2014 – The IT/EP
Original mixes & remixes
- "Rik-Art and Twisted Mind feat Harry Dennis – No Matter (Original Mix)
- "The It Featuring Harry Dennis" – Gallimaufry Gallery (Club Mix)
- "The It featuring Harry Dennis – Gallimaufry Gallery (Short Version)
- "1988 Fingers Inc. – Distant Planet (Club Mix) – Vocals – Harry Dennis
- "The It featuring Harry Dennis – Gallimaufry Gallery (Dub Version)
- "Soul Deep House: Ron Trent ft. Cei Bei & Harry Dennis – Ron Hardy (Dedication to you)
- "Harry Dennis featuring Kim Jay & DeShawn Dennis – "Get Up" (part III, Jerry C. King mix)
- "Loving Every Minute (Just to Be with You) Mac Da Knife feat. Harry Dennis "The IT"
- "Fingers Inc. – Distant Planet-Universal Mix
- "1988-Fingers Inc. – Distant Planet (Club Mix) Vocals - Harry Dennis
- "The It featuring Harry Dennis - Gallimaufry Gallery (Club Mix)
- "SoulDeep Inc. & Jerry C King feat. Harry Dennis - Grey Afternoon (Funkellers Remix)
- 2013 DJ International – Harry Dennis Interview
- 2014 Summer Event, James R. Thompson Bldg., Chicago, IL
- 2015 Legacy of House Music Project, City of Chicago, Dept. of Cultural Affairs
- 2015 25th Anniversary Chosen Few Picnic
- 2015 House Music Legacy Project
- 2015 Harry Dennis & Curtis McClain Performs @ Legends of House Music Event
- The It. Retrieved on 2009-01-23
- Gallimaufry Gallery. Retrieved on January 23, 2009
- Dennis, Harry (June 12, 2012). "Legend Harry Dennis: Unleashes 21st Century House Music" (Press release). chicagosblackbusinessnetwork.com. Retrieved May 2, 2017.
- "Chosen Few DJs Announce Two-Day House Music Festival Line-Up". Chicago Defender. May 3, 2016. Retrieved May 2, 2017.