Tim Lawrence is the author of Love Saves the Day: A History of American Dance Music, 1970-79, Hold On to Your Dreams: Arthur Russell and the Downtown Music Scene, 1973-92 and Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor, 1980-83. Since 1999 he has worked at the University of East London, where he teaches, conducts research and is a founding member of the Centre for Cultural Studies Research. He is also the co-founder of Lucky Cloud Sound System, which started to put on Loft-style parties with David Mancuso in London back in 2003, just as Love Saves the Day was going into production.
Born in Ealing, London, in 1967, he grew up in Winnersh, a small town located some 40 miles west of London, where his dad, who came out of Nazi Germany on the kindertransport, got his first job as an English teacher in a secondary school. Tim read Politics and Modern History at Manchester University, where he immersed himself in the student union by day and, while working in the city during the summer of 1988, a transformative night at Hot/the Hacienda. After completing an MA at Manchester he returned to London to work as a journalist on A Week in Politics and Newsnight.
The move followed the death of his dad in 1987 and mum 1991. After that he found solace in the hope and community of the party scene, especially the Friday night Feel Real night at the Gardening Club, and started to buy 12” vinyl from one of the party’s DJs, Chris, a.k.a. the Rhythm Doctor. Beginning to dream of New York after Louie Vega appeared as a guest at the spot, Tim realised he was ready to take time out of the deadline cycle, so moved to New York City in order to study on the doctoral programme in English Literature at Columbia University in New York, home of postcolonial critic and Palestinian activist Edward Said, and head out to dance to the selections of DJs such as Louie Vega.
The idea to write Love Saves the Day (Duke University Press, 2003) can be traced to the moment when mentor-professor Rob Nixon suggested that Tim write a “quick book” about dance culture in parallel to his doctoral studies. Setting out to write a history of house, he got sucked back to 1970 when Stefan Prescott, the co-owner of Dance Trax alongside Joe Claussell, suggested he speak with David Mancuso. He met Mancuso for lunch in an Italian restaurant in the East Village in 1997, some 14 years since Mancuso had been last interviewed. Barely able to follow Mancuso during their three hours together, Tim realised he had stumbled into the unwritten story of downtown dance culture and spent the next weeks asking legendary DJs such as Tony Humphries, Frankie Knuckles and David Morales if they had ever heard of Mancuso and the Loft. When each one replied that Mancuso’s party had transformed their lives he resolved to dedicate the first chapter to the history of pre-disco and disco. That chapter ended up becoming a somewhat obsessional 500-page book.
After completing his doctoral studies at Sussex University while living in New York, he moved to London in 1997 with Enrica Balestra, whom he’d met in a seminar at Columbia. At the time Shoreditch was the only affordable neighbourhood in Zone 1 and it also reminded them of the times they'd ventured to Body & Soul in TriBeCa. Their two daughters went to the local state school. When Shoreditch became trendy they started to say they lived by Old Street roundabout, an oversized concrete junction that happened to lead in an interesting direction whatever exit one took. Then, when Old Street started to go by the name of Silicon Roundabout and Shoreditch became an overheated investment hotspot they moved up to de Beauvoir, in part to give their daughters a room of their own. By a happy coincide their move anticipated Lucky Cloud's move to Rose Lipman Community Centre, a stone's throw from their new home, the party having had to move when it previous Shoreditch location, the Light, was closed to make way for an oversized office-retail complex.
In the meantime, he published his biography of the musician Arthur Russell, Hold On to Your Dreams, with Duke University Press in 2009, framing the book as an "anti-biography biography" because of the way Arthur immersed himself in collaborative ventures as he moved with extraordinary deftness across the breadth of the downtown music scene. In 2016 he published his third book, Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor, 1980-83, also with Duke.
Special thanks to Louise Hisayasu for co-designing and maintaining this website. Thanks also to Tomas Borbás for the Loft party photos, taken from a party held in London in 2007, and the University of East London for contributing to the creation of the archival page. Those who have contributed photographic and other materials are acknowledged within the site.