Producer, songwriter, recording artist
One of the most influential producers in the history of contemporary popular music, Giorgio Moroder virtually invented two kinds of music—disco and the remix—with his production work on the Donna Summer hit "Love to Love You Baby" in 1975. Working with Summer and other artists, as well as releasing albums of his own, Moroder was among the producers who defined the sound of disco in the late 1970s, and unlike many of his peers, he made a successful transition to the electronics-flavored rock and synth-pop styles that dominated pop charts in the 1980s. A noted film composer as well, Moroder remains a key figure in the evolution of dance music as it is known today.
Giovanni Giorgio Moroder (mo-ROH-dare) was born Hansjöerg Moroder on April 26, 1940, in Ortisei, Italy. He never really changed his name: Ortisei was in the South Tyrol region of northeastern Italy, near the Austrian border, where both Italian and German were spoken. Moroder came from a long line of creative artists, and he attended an art school in Ortisei and later a secondary school in the regional capital, Bolzano. But from the beginning his true passion was music. He took up the guitar, and by the time he graduated from Bolzano's Geometry School at age 19, he was ready to hit the road.
Settled in Berlin
For much of the 1960s Moroder crisscrossed Europe with a variety of rock bands, few of which are remembered today. One high point of his youthful career was a gig at London's posh Savoy Hotel with a group called the Happy Trio. In 1967 Moroder settled in Berlin, Germany. He began writing songs and producing demonstration recordings, or demos, for other artists, and he had a minor hit as producer of a song called "Ich springe alle Ketten" (I Break all the Chains), recorded by Ricky Shayne. In 1971 Moroder moved on to Munich, which at the time had a more vigorous music scene than that of Berlin.
The concept of a group is more amorphous in the dance-pop field than it is in rock or R&B, and Moroder and the musicians around him issued recordings under various names. He scored his first international hit with the single "Son of My Father" and album of the same name, which appeared in Europe under the group name Chicory Tip and in the United States as a release by Giorgio & Friends. The song was especially successful in the United States, and in the early and middle 1970s Moroder and his new creative partner, British songwriter Pete Bellotte, began to focus their efforts on that country.
Pitching demos to American groups like Three Dog Night, they hired vocalist Donna Summer, then completely unknown, as the singer. Moroder got along well with Summer, who had lived in Germany for several years and spoke German fluently, and he began to record her as a solo artist in addition to using her on demos and recordings for other artists. Summer's first solo album with Moroder, 1974's Lady of the Night, went nowhere, but the following year Summer suggested building a song around the phrase "love to love you baby." Moroder and Bellotte took the idea and ran with it, adding elements from a steamy French duet by Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin, "Je t'aime … moi non plus." The single that resulted, "Love to Love You Baby," became a hit in Europe and was released in the United States by the fast-rising Casablanca label.
Created First Remix
With its quasi-orgasmic moans from Summer, slinky beat, and lush orchestral textures, "Love to Love You Baby" was as good a candidate as any other release of that time for the distinction of being the first disco record. When Casablanca decided to release an album including the song, Moroder notched another first: he created a new version of "Love to Love You Baby" that rearranged its basic musical elements and extended it to a length of more than 17 minutes, filling one entire side of the Love to Love You LP. Creating multiple versions of a popular song suited to different uses later became commonplace, but Moroder was the originator of the idea.
Moroder's recordings with Summer were widely imitated by other producers, and under his direction Summer became one of the top stars in the disco genre. Summer's 1976 release Love Trilogy showcased the Moroder string arrangements that became integral to the disco style, and "I Feel Love," from 1977's I Remember Yesterday, may have been the first significant pop hit with an all-electronic accompaniment. Moroder fed his production work with more experimental releases under his own name: his 1975 German album Einzelgänger featured early synthesizer technology, and his 1977 release From Here to Eternity bragged on the cover that only electronic keyboards were used. In Germany, Moroder also produced a dance album by a group called the Munich Machine that consisted of himself and musicians he worked with regularly.
Moroder was unfazed when disco began to run out of steam commercially in the late 1970s, and when Summer wanted to branch out beyond her sex queen persona he was ready with new rock elements for her sound. The resulting 1979 release Bad Girls became one of her most successful (it included the Bellotte-penned "Hot Stuff") releases. The Moroder-Summer partnership continued for one more album, The Wanderer, before dissolving amicably as Summer left the Casablanca label. Moroder continued to release albums under his own name, such as E=MC2 (1980).
For the Record …
Born Hansörg Moroder on April 26, 1940, in Ortisei, Italy. Education: Attended schools in Ortisei and Bolzano, Italy.
Performed in rock bands in Europe, 1960s; formed Musicland Studios, Munich, Germany, 1971; released album Son of My Father and single of same name under group name Chicory Tip in Europe, and as Giorgio & Friends in U.S.; signed Donna Summer as demo vocalist; produced versions of her song "Love to Love You Baby," including 17-minute mix, 1975; produced disco recordings for Summer and others, released three albums on Casablanca and Oasis labels, late 1970s; composed film soundtracks beginning with Midnight Express, 1978; composed score of film Flashdance, co-composed hit "Flashdance (What a Feeling)," composed score for film Scarface, 1983; produced hits by Berlin, Kenny Loggins, and other pop and rock artists, early 1980s; composed new score for silent film Metropolis, 1985; visual artist, 1983-.
Awards: Grammy Awards: Best Instrumental Composition Written Specifically For A Motion Picture or for Television, Best Instrumental Composition (Other than Jazz), 1983; Best Dance Recording, 1997; three Academy Awards; four Golden Globe awards.
Addresses: Web site—Giorgio Moroder Official Web site: http://www.giorgiomoroder.com.
Penned Film Scores
Moroder moved to Los Angeles in the late 1970s, settling in Beverly Hills but for many years dividing his time between Los Angeles and Manhattan. In 1978 he composed the score for the Oliver Stone-scripted film Midnight Express, and in the 1980s he was in demand as a film producer and composer who could provide the kind of hit-sprinkled soundtracks that were coming into vogue. Major Moroder film scores included those for American Gigolo (1979), Flashdance (1983, for which he co-composed the hit "Flashdance [What a Feeling]"), and most successful of all, 1986's Top Gun, which included the number one hit "Take My Breath Away," performed by the group Berlin, as well as Kenny Loggins's "Danger Zone." Moroder's high-tech music, composed as a new score for the classic German 1920s silent film Metropolis, was controversial, differing greatly from previous scores for silent films. Moroder's film work brought him three Academy Awards: Best Original Song for "Take My Breath Away" and for "Flashdance [What a Feeling]," and Best Original Score for Midnight Express.
In the late 1980s and 1990s Moroder was less active in music, pursuing other interests such as automotive design (his 16-cylinder "Cizeta Moroder Super Sport Auto," created with Claudio Zampolli and Marcello Gandini, took a top prize at the Philadelphia Design Contest), visual art (he continues to maintain a Los Angeles studio and to market his paintings in the United States and Europe), and computer film graphics (he won first prize at the Palm Springs Film Festival for a computer-animation film). He continued to do music production work and reunited with Summer for the 1997 song "Carry On," for which he received a Grammy Award for Best Dance Recording. He produced two new songs for Summer's greatest hits collection The Journey in 2003. After composing the theme songs for the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Games, Moroder and two other composers, Kong Xiangdong and Michael Kunze, submitted a proposed theme, "Forever Friends," for the 2008 games in Beijing, China.
Son of My Father (as Chicory Tip in Europe, as Giorgio & Friends in U.S.), c. 1972.
From Here to Eternity, Casablanca, 1977.
(With Chris Bennett, as Giorgio & Chris) Love's in You, Love's in Me, Casablanca, 1978.
E=MC2, Oasis, 1980.
Solitary Men, Teldec, 1983.
Forever Dancing, EMI, 1992.
Midnight Express, 1978.
American Gigolo, 1980.
(With David Bowie) Cat People, 1982.
Electric Dreams, 1984.
Let It Ride, 1989.
Impressionen unter Wasser (Underwater Impressions), 2002.
Albums as producer
Donna Summer, Love to Love You Baby, 1975.
Roberta Kelly, Troublemaker, 1976.
Donna Summer, Love Trilogy, 1976.
Donna Summer, Four Seasons of Love, 1976.
Munich Machine, Introducing the Midnite Ladies, 1977.
Donna Summer, I Remember Yesterday, 1977.
Donna Summer, Once Upon a Time, 1977.
Three Degrees, New Dimensions, 1978.
Donna Summer, Bad Girls, 1979.
Sylvers, Disco Fever, 1979.
Sparks, No. 1 in Heaven, 1979.
Sparks, Terminal Jive, 1980.
Donna Summer, The Wanderer, 1981.
France Joli, Attitude, 1983.
Irene Cara, What a Feeling, 1983.
Nina Hagen, Angstios, 1983.
Sigue Sigue Sputnik, S.S.S., 1986.
Contemporary Theatre, Film & Television, volume 49, Gale, 2003.
Billboard, February 19, 2000, p. 31; April 17, 2004, p. 65.
PR Newswire, September 19, 2003.
Xinhua News Agency (China), December 5, 2007.
"Biography," Giorgio Moroder Official Web site, http://www.giorgiomoroder.com (February 28, 2008).
"Giorgio Moroder," All Music Guide,http://www.allmusic.com (February 28, 2008).
"Giorgio Moroder," Disco-Disco, http://www.disco-disco.com/tributes/giorgio.shtml (February 28, 2008).
"Giorgio Moroder," Disco Museum, http://www.discomuseum.com/GiorgioMoroder.html (February 28, 2008).
—James M. Manheim
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