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.
Born in Ealing, London, in 1967, Tim 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. Tim read Politics and Modern History at Manchester University. He immersed himself in the student union and, while working in the city during the summer of 1988, experienced a transformative night at Hot/the Hacienda. After completing an MA at Manchester he returned to London to work as a journalist at A Week in Politics and Newsnight.
By then he had lost his dad and mum, who died in 1987 and 1991 respectively. 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, the Rhythm Doctor. In 1994 he moved to New York City in order to study on the doctoral programme in English Literature at Columbia University, where he hoped to study with Edward Said, and to head out to dance to hear Louie Vega DJ at the Sound Factory Bar.
The idea to write Love Saves the Day 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 dragged back to 1970 when Stefan Prescott, the co-owner of Dance Trax, suggested he speak with David Mancuso. During the three-hour interview that followed Tim grasped he had stumbled into the unwritten story of downtown party culture. A few hundred interviews later, Tim published Love Saves the Day: A History of American Dance Music Culture, 1970-79, launching the book at David Mancuso's anniversary Loft party in February 2004.
By then Tim had moved back to London with with his now ex-partner Enrica Balestra, whom he’d met at Columbia. He started to work at the University of East London in 1999, and became the dad Carlotta in 2001 and Ilaria in 2005. In 2013 he was appointed Professor of Culture Studies.
Following a suggestion from David Mancuso, Tim became the co-founder of Lucky Cloud Sound System and started to put on Loft-style parties at the Light in June 2003. In 2016 the New York Times published a feature about the rise of audiophile culture in London and interviewed Tim about Lucky Cloud’s pioneering contribution to the culture. In 2018 Resident Advisor published an extended feature about Lucky Cloud Sound System that includes an extended interview with Tim.
Developing his analysis of New York City party, music and art culture during the 1970s and 1980s, Tim published a biography of the musician Arthur Russell, Hold On to Your Dreams: Arthur Russell and the Downtown Music Scene, 1973-92, with Duke University Press in 2009. He framed the book as an "anti-biography biography" because of the way Arthur immersed himself in collaborative ventures as he moved with an extraordinary degree of openness and creativity 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. In the book Lawrence argues that the period, largely neglected historians, stands as one of the most dynamic and creative periods in the history of New York City or any Western city. The book received high profile reviews and feature coverage in the New Yorker, the New York Times, the Guardian, the Times Literary Supplement, Paper Magazine, the Village Voice, Jocks & Nerds, the Wall Street Journal, Vogue Hommes and many other publications.
Inspired by his first visit to Joy in NYC in the spring of 2017, which came at the end of a second Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor tour of the United States, Tim teamed up with Cyril Cornet, Jem Gilbert and Cedric Lassonde of Beauty and the Beat to start a new party, All Our Friends. The first party was held at Chats Palace in Hackney in January 2018.
He currently lives with his daughters in Haggerston, Hackney.
Special thanks to Louise Hisayasu for co-designing and maintaining this website.