As reported by the Daily Swarm, longtime entertainment figure and major player in the disco movement Mel Cheren, who co-founded West End Records and was the man behind launching the Paradise Garage club, recently died of complications to HIV/AIDS. According to reports Cheren learned suddenly and years too late that he had HIV and that it was too late to treat it.
Cheren leaves behind quite a legacy, as outlined in the following bio care of the Daily Swarm and other sources including West End Records' Mel's World website page. In 1959 he began his career in the music business at ABC-Paramount Records. As head of production for Scepter Records, Cheren forged new territory. He was instrumental in creating the first 12” single for DJs, in forming the first record pool (The New York Record Pool-- later to become For The Record Record Pool) and the first to release an instrumental mix on a 12” B-side (“We’re On The Right Track” by Ultra High Frequency). This innovation earned Cheren and Scepter a Billboard Trendsetter Award and soon set the standard for an industry-wide practice. In 1976, Mel co-founded West End Records and soon after signed Karen Young, whose single “Hot Shot” sold 800,000 copies, making it one of the biggest selling 12s” in history. And if you forgot what that song sounds like check out the video of Karen Young below in a live performance from 1978.
Equally or more important to some admirers of Cheren is his role in legendary club The Paradise Garage. He was the financial backer for the club, which was owned and operated by his former partner, Michael Brody. During the Garage years, Cheren’s relationship with the club’s influential DJ Larry Levan blossomed, resulting in some of the most memorable records to come out of the late Seventies and early Eighties. In addition to his role in music history and being dubbed “The Godfather of Disco” by trade magazine Dance Music Report, Cheren is a dedicated AIDS awareness activist. In 1982 he became actively involved with the Gay Men’s Health Crisis. In 1987 he formed 24 Hours For Life, a not-for-profit organization of media and music professionals which produced fundraising events for AIDS relief and education.