in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, david cole, one half of c&c music factory, wrote and produced some of dance music’s biggest pop hits. today we celebrate his life and his musical legacy.

david was a brilliant piano player who got his start remixing songs as he was DJing in night clubs in NYC in 1985. it was during this time that David met his future musical partner, fellow DJ robert clivillés. together, with the musical genius of david, they would go on to write and produce songs across all genres. it was their partnership that gave us girl group bops, “because of you” (the cover girls) and “two to make it right” (seduction). fun fact, the latter featured future Rupaul’s drag race judge, michelle visage.

after writing and producing for other artists (chaka khan and grace jones), cole and clivilles signed to columbia records and formed c&c music factory. along with rapper, freedom williams, singer, zelma davis and the vocals of martha wash, c&c music factory scored a monstrous hit with the jock-jam genre creating, “gonna make you sweat.” on the week of february 9, 1991, “sweat” peaked at #1 on the hot 100 and pushed c&c’s debut album into multi-platinum status.

by the summer of 1991, david song writing and production could be heard all over the radio. one of the songs included mariah carey’s now classic, “emotions.” co-written with mariah, “emotions” topped the pop, r&b and dance charts. david & mariah forged a musical bond and would go on collaborate on several songs & remixes. david could be seen masterfully playing the piano on mariah carey’s mtv unplugged.

[fun fact: the first time i stepped foot into a gay club was in the summer of 1993 and the songs that was playing as i walked in was the c&c music factory remix of Taylor dayne’s cover of barry white’s 1974 hit “can’t get enough of your love.” i immediately ran to the dance floor and felt a kind of freedom that i had never experienced.]

over the next few years, david continued to be high demand and produced hits for pop icons, whitney houston, aretha franklin, michael jackson and donna summer. sadly, just as donna reached the top spot on the dance chart with c&c written and produced, “melody of love”, david died of complication of spinal meningitis brought on by hiv on january 24, 1995. david was just 32 years old.

in 1996, mariah carey co-wrote “one sweet day” with boyz II men with her friend david in mind. the song would go on to become the longest running #1 song in billboard hot 100 history.

in a recent pitchfork interview, mariah spoked about david. “he was one of the only people i used to have in the studio when I would sing because i respected him as a singer. he would push me in different areas where he could actually sing it to me and I would be like, “oh, this is cool. i like that.” if you listen to the song “emotions,” that was him going, “you can do that. try this.” half the time, i would lose my voice afterwards because he would just push me.”

i remember watching mtv when the news of david’s death broke. the realization that fame and talent could not and would not protect the young and talented knocked the wind out of me. even now as an adult, i am still saddened by the loss of such a brilliant artist.

david cole, in his all too brief time on this planet, blessed us with a catalog of music that has and will continue to inspire generations. 

rest well, david. may you forever dance in peace!

written by: louie a. ortiz-fonseca

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