When Giorgio Moroder appears at this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival on Friday, July 18, he’ll be the oldest artist there—by a long shot. Nevertheless, this 74-year-old electronic dance music producer has certainly earned his place among festival cool kids St. Vincent, Grimes and tUnE-yArDs, as well as hipster heritage acts like Beck, Neutral Milk Hotel and Slowdive.
Giorgio Moroder first made a name for himself in 1975 as the producer of the Donna Summer classic “Love To Love You Baby.” This funky disco confection is remembered for its wall-to-wall orgasmic moans and epic length (17 minutes, which was said to be timed out for the ultimate lovemaking experience—though that hardly seems very ambitious for tantric sex fiends like, say, Sting).
Moroder’s 1977 hit with Summer, “I Feel Love,” changed the course of popular music by employing nothing more than the human voice and electronic machines. Brian Eno, who was working with David Bowie in Berlin when the song was released, reportedly interrupted a recording session with a copy of the record in hand.
“I’ve heard the sound of the future,” the visionary producer exclaimed, clutching an “I Feel Love” 12-inch. “This is it, look no further. This single is going to change the sound of club music for the next 15 years.” The only error in Eno’s judgment was that the song still continues to influence dance music, 37 years after its release.
Last year Moroder was introduced to a new generation of listeners by Daft Punk, whose song “Giorgio By Moroder” appeared on 2013’s Random Access Memories. Over a Moroder-esque backing track, Daft Punk sampled a recording of the producer talking about making “I Feel Love” and his other adventures in electronic music. Musically, it was one of the highlights of Daft Punk’s album, though “Giorgio By Moroder” barely holds a candle to the legendary producer’s classic recordings.
In crafting “I Feel Love,” Moroder took direct inspiration from another German group, Kraftwerk, who pioneered the use of synthesizers, sequencers and computers in popular music. Kraftwerk’s “Trans-Europe Express” was a moderate commercial hit in 1977, but the Moroder-Summer collaboration was a truly global smash that quickly turned heads.
Forward-thinking artists like David Bowie and Brian Eno, who were already fans of Kraftwerk, took notice—as did Blondie. Group members Debbie Harry and Chris Stein both recall that their massive hit “Heart of Glass” was directly inspired by the music of Kraftwerk and Giorgio Moroder. (Blondie later had another worldwide number one hit with “Call Me,” which was produced by Moroder.)
Aside from working as a producer, he also produced a series of robo-tastic solo albums, like 1977’s From Here To Eternity and 1979’s E = MC². Moroder never rested on his laurels, and he continued to work slowly and steadily over the decades until the rest of the world finally caught up with the sound he created four decades ago. If there’s one adjective that describes Giorgio Moroder, it’s retro-futuristic.