Patrick Cowley

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Patrick Cowley
Patrick Cowley.JPG
Cowley with Sylvester
Background information
Birth name Patrick Joseph Cowley
Born (1950-10-19)19 October 1950
Buffalo, New York, U.S.
Origin Buffalo, New York, U.S.
Died 12 November 1982(1982-11-12) (aged 32)
San Francisco, California, U.S.
Genres Disco, Hi-NRG, synthpop, electronic, experimental, ambient
Instruments Multiple instruments
Years active 1976–1982
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 is often credited as a pioneer of electronic dance music.[1]

Early life[edit]

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. 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.

Musical career[edit]

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 became the DJ 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 also reached #1 on the Billboard dance chart in 1982. A collaboration with Sylvester, "Do Ya Wanna Funk", 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. His final album, Mind Warp, 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.[2]

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.

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.[3][4] 2009 saw the release of Catholic, a compilation of post-punk-flavored collaborations with writer/singer Jorge Socarras from 1976-1979. 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.[5]


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,[6] 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 also 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)[5]
  • Kickin' In (2015 – Recorded 1975-1978)[5]
  • Muscle Up (2015 – Recorded 1973-1981)[5]
  • Candida Cosmica (2016 – Recorded 1973-1975)[5]
  • Afternooners (2017 – Recorded 1982)[5]

Notable collaborations[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 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."
  2. ^ Patrick Cowley biography, by Diana Potts, hosted at Retrieved 16 July 2009.
  3. ^ 10/31/13 4:00pm 10/31/13 4:00pm. "LGBT History Month: The AIDS Masterpiece of a Lost Disco Pioneer". Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  4. ^ 6/22/12 3:55pm 6/22/12 3:55pm. "Today's Song: Patrick Cowley 'Menergy'". Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Patrick Cowley – School Daze 2xLP". Dark Entries Records. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  6. ^ "Reviews: Various Artists". Out Magazine. June 2002.

External links[edit]