Cowley with Sylvester
|Birth name||Patrick Joseph Cowley|
|Born||19 October 1950|
Buffalo, New York, U.S.
|Origin||Buffalo, New York, U.S.|
|Died||12 November 1982 (aged 32)|
San Francisco, California, U.S.
|Genres||Disco, Hi-NRG, synthpop, experimental|
|Labels||Megatone, Fusion Records, Macro|
|Associated acts||Paul Parker, Frank Loverde, Sylvester|
Patrick Joseph Cowley (October 19, 1950 – November 12, 1982) was an American disco and Hi-NRG dance music composer and recording artist. Besides Giorgio Moroder, he often is credited as a pioneer of electronic dance music.
Patrick Cowley was born in Buffalo, New York to Ellen and Kenneth Cowley. The family originated in the Horseheads and Corning areas of New York and lived in Rochester, New York. During his teenage years, Cowley became a successful drummer with local amateur bands before attending Niagara University and later the University at Buffalo to study English. In 1971, at the age of 21, Cowley moved to San Francisco to attend the City College of San Francisco where he studied music, specifically the use of synthesizers.
Cowley met San Francisco-based musician Sylvester in the late 1970s. Sylvester had asked Cowley to join his studio band after hearing some of his early synthesizer recordings. He played synthesizer on Sylvester's 1978 album Step II which included the hits "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)" and "Dance (Disco Heat)". In addition he wrote "Stars" and "I Need Somebody to Love Tonight" from his 1979 album Stars. Cowley also joined Sylvester's live band and joined him on several world tours.
Cowley's own hits included "Menergy" in 1981, a frank celebration of the gay club scene, and "Megatron Man", which hit #1 and #2 respectively on the Billboard Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart in 1981. That same year, Patrick Cowley was celebrated at the Menergy parties at The EndUp in San Francisco. He also wrote and produced the dance single "Right on Target" for San Francisco artist Paul Parker, which reached #1 on the Billboard dance chart in 1982. "Do Ya Wanna Funk", a collaboration with Sylvester, made #4 on the Billboard dance chart that same year. Cowley also did a 15'45" long remix of Donna Summer's "I Feel Love", which is now a collector's item. Mind Warp, his final album, was composed as he felt the increasing effects of HIV infection, and its songs reflect his increasing detachment from conventional reality as the disease progressed. Cowley only released three solo albums, but groups including the Pet Shop Boys and New Order cite Cowley's style as a major influence.
Amid the accompanying emergence of nu-disco in the late 2000s and early 2010s, profiles of Cowley in Gawker and other high-profile outlets have contributed to a resurgence of interest in his work. 2009 saw the release of Catholic, a compilation of post-punk-flavored collaborations with writer/singer Jorge Socarras from 1976 to 1979.
During a world tour with Sylvester in late 1981, Cowley complained of feeling increasingly unwell. Upon returning to the United States, he visited a doctor who diagnosed food poisoning. Weeks later, with his condition only worsening, doctors again failed to identify what was wrong with him. At this early stage in the history of the HIV and AIDS, misdiagnosis was common and so Cowley, who was gay, was discharged from the hospital (in 1982) after doctors could do nothing more for him. Cowley went on to complete two albums, his own Mind Warp and Sylvester's All I Need, which was retitled Do Ya Wanna Funk when re-released in 2003. Cowley died at his home in San Francisco on November 12, 1982. He was 32 years old, an early victim of AIDS. A couple of tracks were completed for a planned Sarah Dash album that year, which was cut short by Cowley's death.
- Menergy (1981)
- Megatron Man (1981)
- Mind Warp (1982)
- Catholic (2009 – Recorded 1976-1979)
- School Daze (2013 – Recorded 1973-1981) School Daze, a collection of electronic instrumentals (influenced by Giorgio Moroder, Isao Tomita, and Wendy Carlos) recorded between 1973 and 1981, was released by Dark Entries Records in 2013. The album contains several soundtrack cues from the eponymous gay porn film.
- Kickin' In (2015 – Recorded 1975-1978)
- Muscle Up (2015 – Recorded 1973-1981)
- Candida Cosmica (2016 – Recorded 1973-1975) Candida Cosmica an album co-created by Candida Royalle between 1973 and 1975, was released posthumously in 2016 by Dark Entries Records and featured experimental synthesizer music. Candida Cosmica may be a nod to both female sexuality and gay pornography existing within the same sound.
- Afternooners (2017 – Recorded 1982)
- Mechanical Fantasy Box (2019)
Cowley wrote and produced songs for several San Francisco musicians including friends Paul Parker and Frank Loverde. He was associated with many other musicians such as Kat Mandu, Maurice Tani and Linda Imperial.
- "Right on Target" by Paul Parker (1982)
- "Die Hard Lover" by Frank Loverde (1982)
- "Do You Wanna Funk" by Sylvester (1982)
- "Tech-no-logical world" by Paul Parker (1982)
- Heinzmann, Daniel, The San Francisco Sound – "Patrick Cowley forged an electronic sound so new and exciting that it shook the foundations of dance music for years and is still influencing current artists with its haunting simplicity and powerful, driving energy. While many of his contemporaries in the field of electronic music used the technology to create synthesized replications of already existing sounds and rhythms, Patrick Cowley brought the future to them and laid it at their feet."
- Patrick Cowley biography, by Diana Potts, hosted at AllMusic.com. Retrieved 16 July 2009.
- 10/31/13 4:00pm 10/31/13 4:00pm. "LGBT History Month: The AIDS Masterpiece of a Lost Disco Pioneer". Gawker.com. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
- 6/22/12 3:55pm 6/22/12 3:55pm. "Today's Song: Patrick Cowley 'Menergy'". Gawker.com. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
- "OutFront Music Reviews: Various Artists". Out Magazine. June 2002. Retrieved 2019-03-27 – via Google Books.
- "Patrick Cowley – School Daze 2xLP". Dark Entries Records. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
- Dayal, Geeta (2016-10-26). "San Fran-disco: how Patrick Cowley and Sylvester changed dance music forever". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-03-27.
- "Patrick Cowley / Candida Royalle: Candida Cosmica". Pitchfork. Retrieved 2019-03-27.
- Lefebvre, Sam (2016-08-05). "Waking the Spirit of a Disco Innovator". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-03-27.