May 31, 1960|
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Larry Heard (born May 31, 1960, Chicago, Illinois) is a Memphis, Tennessee-based DJ, record producer and musician, widely known as an important figure in 1980s Chicago house music. He has recorded solo under various names, most notably Mr. Fingers, and was leader of the influential group Fingers Inc., whose 1988 album Another Side was the first long-form house LP. He is regarded as a pioneer of deep house music, bridging the gap between the futurism and "posthuman tendencies" of house and the lush, soulful sound of disco.
Born on the South Side of Chicago, Heard grew up hearing jazz and Motown at home, and could play several instruments from a young age. Before beginning his solo musical career in 1983, he was the drummer, at the age of 17, in the band Infinity (a jazz fusion cover group that included Adonis). He is sometimes cited as having been a member of the Manhattan Transfer, but Heard has denied this, saying, "[I] filled in for somebody on one show." He also worked for the US government as a benefit authorizer, which enabled him to buy his first studio equipment.
Heard began producing music in 1984 after purchasing a synthesizer and drum machine; after a few days with the gear, he had recorded three tracks that would later be regarded as landmarks of house music: "Can You Feel It?", "Mystery of Love", and "Washing Machine." Despite initially not having a connection to Chicago's club scene, he eventually met singer and DJ Robert Owens at a party and the two formed the group Fingers Inc. along with Ron Wilson. The group would release the first full-length house LP Another Side in 1988. Around this time, Heard also began releasing solo singles as Mr. Fingers on Trax Records and DJ International. At the end of the decade, Trax released Amnesia, which compiled Heard's early tracks; it was released without Heard's permission.
In 1989, Heard contributed to the debut album by producer Lil' Louis. In the early 1990s, he recorded with Harry Dennis as the It before setting out on his own, signing to MCA Records as a solo act in 1991 and releasing his first official Mr. Fingers album Introduction in 1992 to international success. After the label interfered with his Mr. Fingers follow-up, he released the less dance-oriented album Sceneries Not Songs, Vol. 1 in 1995 under his given name. He continued to record intermittently in the following years, and released the Mr. Fingers album Cerebral Hemispheres in 2018. Much of Heard's music has been released and re-released under different names, including Loosefingers, Fingers, House Factors, and Trio Zero.
In October 2004, "Can You Feel It" appeared in popular video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, playing on house-music radio station SF-UR and the song "Cosmology Myth" appeared in the 2009 video game Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City, playing on the ambient/chillout radio station Self-Actualization FM. Heard himself also appeared in the video game, Half-Life 2, allowing his face to be used as a generic character.