Deep house, a subgenre of house music, was born out of Chicago house music and 1980s jazz-funk and soul. Its origins are attributed to the music of Larry Heard.

Heard released Mystery of Love in 1985 under the moniker “Mr. Fingers”. Thus, he set the stage for what would become known as deep house. After purchasing a Roland Jupiter-6 synthesizer, Heard wrote and recorded the song. It stands out for its intricate 1-4-5-chord progressions. It was recorded to a cassette tape in ‘one take, one pass,’ with vocals from Chicago friends Robert Owens and Ron Wilson. Heard made three vinyl acetates. Only one of the three remained as a prototype; the other two ended up in the hands of legendary DJs Frankie Knuckles and Ron Hardy, who allegedly argued with Heard over credit for the song. DJ International Records released a second version of the song in April 1986, which peaked at number 10 on the Billboard Hot Dance/Disco 12 chart. Even though it took a long time for the song to become established in popular culture, Heard is now widely acknowledged as the indisputable father of deep house. His song “Can You Feel It?” helped to further separate the subgenre from its early house roots.

More history

Deep house pioneer Marshall Jefferson was born in Chicago and released his first hit, “Move Your Body,” in 1985. Despite the fact that label owner Larry Sherman didn’t think it was a “genuine” house single, this was one of the first piano-driven house tunes to be released under Jefferson’s own name. Almost all deep house connoisseurs agree that the early to mid-1990s were a golden age for the genre, a time when it began to stand on its own.

Famous nightclubs like New York’s Paradise Garage, Chicago’s Warehouse and Chicago’s The Loft helped establish the deep house sound. It eventually found its way into Europe’s mainstream dance clubs, thanks to the growing UK club scene’s contributions.

Theo Parrish, a key character in Detroit Techno’s third wave of electronic music artists, brought additional depth and complexity to the genre. This would be incredibly influential and encourage more experimentation. Omar S and Moodyman, two other pioneers, would later collaborate with Parrish. 

Musical specifics of deep house

Deep house music has a distinct sound. Low-pitched percussion (usually Roland TR-909 drum machines), soft keyboard sounds (pads), ambient mixes, and soulful vocals define it. Lyrics are either uplifting or, in the case of the blues, more depressing, depending on the style. The arrangement of popular deep house tunes seldom reaches a peak, focusing instead on a soothing, hypnotic, and relaxing feel. As a result, there isn’t much of a distinction between breaks and drops in most deep house tunes. The track structure is more minimalistic than in other kinds of house music.