Songs We Love: The 312, ‘Touch Your Body (Moodymann Remix)’

I was already planning on writing about this track weeks before the events that took place in Orlando early Sunday morning. It seemed a no-brainer. Because whether you like house music as deep dance music, as great pop music or as secular gospel, there's little not to love about this incredibly potent collaboration between three Chicago house giants (producers Felix Da Housecat and Vince Lawrence, with vocalist/producer Jamie Principle) and one of Detroit's best contemporary musicians (the one and only Moodymann, a.k.a. Kenny Dixon, Jr.). It's a great, sensual love song that takes place on the dance floor, with a release both carnal ("I want to touch your body one more time," Principle coos in the chorus) and spiritual ("I need relief" is the vocal loop Moodymann's remix brings to the fore — a reminder that, no matter when it may've been recorded, we all live in a world that requires a modicum of "relief"). It might seem like hyperbole to call the song an instant classic, an addition to the vocal-house pantheon of which Principle is a co-founder, but that is exactly what it sounds like.

Yet in light of the horrific attack at the Pulse nightclub, the murders of 49 men and women who almost all identified with the LGBTQ community, there is something else that is important to point out about "Touch Your Body": This is music rooted in the gay experience, in the experience of people of color and in the culture of gay nightclubs — experiences that took place long before the victories of the gay rights movement made progress seem inevitable. That's why listening to this song this week and not thinking of what happened in Orlando isn't really an option — especially when the sounds and codes of "Touch Your Body" hearken so prominently to sites that once offered temporary reprieves from gay discrimination. Sites like Pulse.

Here's a reminder: House music was born almost entirely of gay liberation, in the post-Stonewall Inn disco parties of New York and then in a Chicago club called the Warehouse (hence, "house") commandeered by a gay expat New York DJ named Frankie Knuckles, who first put on Jamie Principle. The dance floors at these clubs may have been integrated (all races, genders and sexual persuasions welcome), but there should be no mistaking that this was music first and foremost programmed by the gay community, for the gay community, based on things deemed important in the gay community. All lovers of late-20th century American culture have profited immeasurably from the creative ideas and the unadulterated emotion initially nurtured in the safety of gay clubs populated by bodies of color. As "Touch Your Body" asserts, we continue to bask in the wonders of that creativity and in the open-hearted notions of inclusivity it fostered. Never forget that.

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