Kids these days might have heard him first from that nine-minute Daft Punk track. “My name is Giovanni Giorgio,” he began, “but everybody calls me Giorgio.” Thus began the unlikely return of Giorgio Moroder to the pop scene’s cool parts, culminating in the release last year of Déjà Vu, his first album in 23 years. Throughout his fifty-year career the Italian record producer has shaped pop music: coming from the bouncy sensiblities of Italian pop, he was a leading beacon of the disco sound, and later produced many iconic songs. As he performs in Manila on Saturday, 27 February (unless there’s another postponement) here’s an attempt to cover all those five decades – well, there was a break – in five songs.
“Looky Looky” by Giorgio Moroder | Born on 26 April 1940 in South Tyrol – it’s in the northern part of Italy, but is culturally German, having been taken by the Italians during the first World War – Giorgio Moroder began his music career in 1965. For years he toiled as “Giorgio”, a pop singer based in Berlin singing songs in four languages. His first breakthrough came in 1969, with “Looky Looky”. His 1971 album, Son of My Father, yielded a hit of the same name (which would be a bigger hit for British band Chicory Tip). He would also, somehow, make a cover of this song you likely remember best from the Muppets.
“I Feel Love” by Donna Summer | In the early 1970s, Donna Summer was working as a model and back-up singer in Munich, when she met Giorgio and his colleague, Pete Bellotte. She was signed to Oasis, a label the two founded. Her first album, Lady of the Night, was a European hit when it was released in 1974. The following year, Donna and Giorgio collaborated on “Love To Love You Baby”, a song that, while controversial (just listen), proved to be such a hit. In 1977, they worked on “I Feel Love”, the first disco hit produced entirely with synthesizers. The next year, their work on the Thank God It’s Friday soundtrack – which includes another hit, “Last Dance” – led to a Grammy. The partnership between Donna and Giorgio – which ran for decades; she provided the vocals to his last single before a long hiatus, “Carry On” – arguably changed the face of pop music forever.
“Together in Electric Dreams” by Philip Oakey and Giorgio Moroder | Giorgio, of course, collaborated with many more artists throughout his career. As he shifted towards electronic sounds during the 1980s, he began working with a wide range of acts, whether as a producer or songwriter. One such effort was with Human League vocalist Philip Oakey: their song together – the theme to the 1985 film Electric Dreams – was so successful that it led to a collaborative album together. A nice touch, considering that Philip was immensely inspired by Giorgio’s work during the early days of the Human League.
“Call Me” by Blondie | Giorgio’s soundtrack work is pretty storied. He produced Blondie’s “Call Me”, a cross-Atlantic chart-topper, for American Gigolo. He produced and co-wrote “Cat People (Putting Out Fire)” with David Bowie, for the film Cat People. He produced and wrote “Danger Zone” for Top Gun; after being rejected by Ryan Adams and REO Speedwagon, it was handed over to Kenny Loggins. He also produced Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away” for the same film. He is also behind iconic scores for Scarface and Midnight Express, the latter of which won him his first Grammy, in 1979.
“Right Here, Right Now” by Giorgio Moroder featuring Kylie Minogue | Giorgio’s 1992 album, Forever Dancing, would be his last for 23 years. He wasn’t completely out of the spotlight, however: you can say his comeback has been on the works for decade. He worked on themes for the video game Grand Theft Auto III (and one of the game’s radio stations is devoted exclusively to the Scarface soundtrack). He did the soundtrack to a surprise film from Leni Riefenstahl (side note: her history is fascinating). Then came that Daft Punk song. Boom, hello. He began a new career as a DJ, remixing tracks from Coldplay and Tony Bennett; then, in 2015, his new album, embracing a more familiar sound for the kids, featuring collaboration with Kylie Minogue, Sia and Charli XCX. He looks cool again. He looks cool now. Well, he always was cool. [NB]