Categories: MusicOriginals

The Essentials: Larry Heard

Here is a playlist featuring landmark and criminally underrated cuts culled from the depths of the Larry Heard catalog, which remains an indisposable blueprint of house music’s spirit and circuitry.

Larry Heard doesn’t seem to put much in a name. Over the last 40 years, the producer has released music under nearly a dozen different monikers. But one, in particular, is stitched into the programming of house music’s source code.

As”Mr. Fingers,” Heard unlocked something deep and spiritual in Roland synth patches and drum programs, laying warm chords and buoyant bass riffs over four-to-the-floor kicks. Thanks to fellow founders Frankie Knuckles and Ron Hardy, his debut single, “Mystery of Love,” took Chicago clubs and radios by storm in 1985 as a demo recorded on a pair of cassettes with the first synthesizer he ever owned. Reception to the song outpaced Heard’s reputation, which eventually did catch up to the rotations. But not before both Hardy and Knuckles tried to claim it as their own.

In the following years, a number of Heard’s tracks as both Mr. Fingers and Fingers Inc, a group forged with vocalists Robert Owens and Ron Wilson, have been recognized as invaluable to the development of Chicago house. “Can You Feel It” arrived in 1986 as the breakout single from Heard’s Washing Machine EP, following “Mystery of Love” with a kindred blast of high-octane drum sequences and wide-panning synth beds. Both tracks are widely considered to be cornerstone cuts in the broader house continuum. But as whole, and across the various names he’s taken in decades since his initial introduction, Heard’s catalog remains an indisposable blueprint of the genre’s spirit and circuitry.

In celebration of the revival of the Mr. Fingers banner for his new album, Around The Sun Pt. 1, we combed the depths of the Larry Heard catalog (as well as the producer’s range of aliases,) to compile a collection of his landmark and criminally underrated recordings.

Get acquainted with all versions of Larry Heard in the latest installment of our The Essentials playlist series below. Grab a copy of the producer’s new album on vinyl today.


Zo is a staff writer at Okayplayer where he covers music.

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