Duane Powell is a cultural icon in the city of Chicago. He can tell you the most intricate stories about many of your favorite musical legends and he’s also an exceptional DJ. His set “Sunday Service” held at the Stony Island Bank in Chicago is headed to the Smithsonian and he is a featured DJ at this year’s Hyde Park Summer Fest. Rolling out spoke to Powell about his love for music, going to the Smithsonian and the Hyde Park Summer Fest.
Where does your passion for music come from?
It’s been with me my whole life. My mom insists that when she bought me a tricycle when I was 3 years old, I didn’t ride it. I flipped it over on its side and put a 45 on the wheel in hopes that it would make it sound. She sticks by that story. I grew up immersed in music. Music was always the backdrop to everything. Everything we did as a family, as a people, music always accompanied it in some way — from the barbecue to the cleaning up of the house on Saturdays.
What do you want to accomplish when you DJ?
There’s a culture of DJs who proudly say how they don’t cater to the crowd. I’m not one of those DJs. I’m going to give you me, while catering to you because there has to be a give and take between me and the audience. I can’t sit there and play over your head all night. I have to do something to bring you into the fold. That’s what brings the energy in. The reason I call my event “Sunday Service” is not necessarily a play on church. It is, but really my DJing is a service, I’m serving you.
How does it feel to know “Sunday Service” is going to the Smithsonian?
It is definitely surreal. I didn’t even think I would be deejaying. I never could pinpoint what my quote-unquote calling was, because music was such a natural thing. I just never could figure it out. So to go from that uncertainty to having places like the Smithsonian and having the art world embrace what I do as a DJ as art is overwhelming.
What can people expect from you at the Hyde Park Summer Fest this year?
The songs will definitely be much more message heavy, a little gospel, but still very much dance [music].
What is your best Summertime Chi memory?
My memories go all the way back to the seventies. People were tripping out when I was talking about remembering the summer of ’79. That summer was so good. I remember the releases. I remember “Not Just Knee Deep” by Funkadelic being my ultimate cut. 1979 was just like this magical year. I do think about the summer of ’89, the year I graduated high school. The year that Lil Louis put out the first album.
The Hyde Park Summer Fest is June 17 -18 in Chicago on the campus of The University of Chicago. Buy tickets here.