Erick Morillo, who helped popularize house music and EDM, dead at 49

Noted DJ and music producer Erick Morillo, who helped popularize house music, was found dead in Miami Beach, authorities said Monday. He was 49.

Officers on Monday were called to Morillo's residence, where they found him dead, police said. A cause of death had not yet been determined.

"There were no apparent signs of foul play," the Miami Beach department said. "The cause of death will be determined by the Miami Dade Medical Examiner’s Office."

Morillo, who was accused of sexual battery in an alleged attack in December, had been arrested by Miami Beach police last month. He was due to appear in court Friday, police said.

Morillo had denied the allegations.

"This is a very unfortunate incident where our detectives worked diligently to provide some sort of closure for the victim," Miami Beach police spokesman Ernesto Rodriguez said in an Aug. 6 statement.

Image: DJ Erick Morillo Birthday Bash (Jemal Countess / WireImage/Getty Images file)
Image: DJ Erick Morillo Birthday Bash (Jemal Countess / WireImage/Getty Images file)

For nearly 30 years, Morillo was a popular figure in the world of house music, the post-disco sound born in Chicago in the 1980s and taken for a global ride the next decade by British rave DJs including Paul Oakenfold and Pete Tong.

Born in Colombia and once based in New York City, Morillo was second-wave house producer who sometimes eschewed its diva-vocal sound (Robin S, "Show Me Love") in favor of more aggressive percussion and world influences, including dub, reggaeton and Latin flavors.

One result was Reel 2 Real's "Go On Move," better known as "I Like to Move It," which featured the patois vocals of Trinidadian-born American artist Mad Stuntman. It reached chart positions in the United States and Europe.

In the 1990s and 2010s, Morillo was a one-man economic machine in the industry, spawning record labels such as Subliminal and Subusa, promoting and managing artists, producing, remixing and appearing at superclubs as a top-of-the-marquee DJ.

In 2005, he helped club Pacha on the Spanish party isle of Ibiza open a 2,665-capacity venue in New York at a time when large nightclubs were becoming the biggest stages for dance music performers. Venues like Pacha helped set the stage for the 2010s electronic dance music era, Las Vegas superclubs, and massive festivals like Electric Daisy Carnival.

In the mid-2000s, Morillo released three tracks that featured rapper Sean "Diddy" Combs, an occasional presence in the Miami club scene at the time.

At Electric Daisy Carnival Las Vegas in 2012, Steve Angello of chart-topping act Swedish House Mafia introduced Morillo onstage as "the guy who taught me how to DJ in clubs."

Morillo's sunrise performances in Ibiza made him a symbol of the party lifestyle, and in an interview with BBC Radio One's Tong in 2016, he admitted he had walked the walk, saying his alcohol and drug use culminated with an addiction to ketamine.

The DJ never seemed to lose his credibility with dance music puritans. He sometimes performed back-to-back with Danny Tenaglia, one of house music's most revered DJs.

"He would be one that other DJs would want to go and check out," said Los Angeles radio veteran "Swedish" Egil Aalvik, founder of "He did not just play a record into the next record. He would layer sounds and build up, drop it up and built it again."

Morillo was a music tastemaker who led dance music fans to new artists, he said.

"People looked up to him for new remixes, dubs, vocal records," Aalvik said. "He managed and helped promote different DJs. He did all those things that many DJs wish they could do one or two of those things."