DJ Tracy Young celebrates 25 years behind the turntables this month. In that time, the music weaver who has been heralded for her work with the hottest names in music including Madonna, Cher, and Lady Gaga, has released seven musical compilations and racked up 48 #1 Billboard Club hits. Her latest single, “Peace, Love, & Music,” is already at #21 on the Billboard dance chart in only its third week out.
“I remember the first time I walked into a DJ booth like it was yesterday,” says Young from her Miami home. “I was living in DC at the time and the DJ at HillHaven, a predominately black, lesbian club, called in sick. It was a Saturday night and the club’s owner knew I had been practicing with turntables at home and called me in to spin. I was a nervous wreck! My heart was pounding out of my chest and my palms were sweaty but as soon as that needle hit the record, I fell into my groove. It was like I had found my home. That night led to the first of many residences I would have in the DC area.”
At the time Tracy first stepped into the booth, a female DJ was unheard of. It was equivalent to a woman playing football in the NFL. It simply did not happen.
While today’s club scene centers round stages, LED lights, and spinners putting on a concert-style performance for their social media, twenty-five years ago, clubs were the place fans went to access new music and remixes of their favorite artists. DJs were hand picked by artists for remixes and the tracks were a bridge for their work to be heard on the world’s largest dance floors. “It was about the music and the journey and connecting the music’s energy with that of the crowd’s. It should not have mattered who was inside the booth, but somehow it did. I would get the strangest looks from people when they realized I wasn’t a man.”
Young owes much of her success to powerful women in the industry who helped her along the way. Most notably, her friend Ingrid Casares who introduced her to Madonna in the mid-nineties. Young would go on to spin private events for the Material Girl: movie premieres, album release parties, even her wedding to Guy Ritchie! Madonna’s stamp of approval lead to more opportunities to work with celebrities and soon, Young was producing her own original music.
Of the hundreds of productions she has released, Young has a hard time picking her favorite as each one represents a particular time in music. If she were to pick one, however, it would be Madonna’s “Music” because the track was one of Young’s first commercially released official remixes.
The song’s message about the power of music also encapsulates her experience over the last twenty-five years. “I have been able to do the one thing that I love for my entire adult life,” she reflects. “There have been so many special moments, too, from hosting my own radio mix show, to appearances on MTV and BET, to working with Madonna and all things in between. Seriously, I think it says a lot to still be here after twenty-five years.”
Young recently returned to DJing after a two-year hiatus, although, she admits it wasn’t much of one. During the so-called break, she headlined Mardi Gras in Australia as well as several major Pride Festivals in the USA. She DJ’ed Lance Bass’ wedding to Micheal Turchin that was aired on E! and was very involved in the 2016 Presidential campaign, DJ-ing several Hillary Clinton events including Cher’s fundraiser.
“I took a break from touring because I wanted to focus more on my music productions and concentrate on my return to radio,” Young explains. She currently hosts a weekly iHeart radio show that airs Saturday nights at 9pm. “I had considered retiring from touring altogether, but something always pulled me back in the booth and on the road,” she laughs.
Still, a majority of her time has been in the studio. She produced Dianne Warren’s Lady Gaga remix of “Til it Happens to You” for the CNN documentary, The Hunting Ground. She collaborated with Maya Simantov on “I Can Forgive” and Karina Iglesias on “Same Love”; both songs charted on the Billboard Dance Top 20. She released an EP, “Living Cinema” and solo titles: “Free Your Mind,” “Give It Up,” and “Color Of Your Eyes.”
Tracy Young is looking forward to celebrating her silver jubilee in style. She will release a special 25th year anniversary compilation this fall.