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Patrick Cowley

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Patrick Cowley
Cowley with Sylvester
Cowley with Sylvester
Background information
Birth namePatrick Joseph Cowley
Born(1950-10-19)October 19, 1950
Buffalo, New York, U.S.
OriginBuffalo, New York, U.S.
DiedNovember 12, 1982(1982-11-12) (aged 32)
Castro District, San Francisco, California, U.S.
InstrumentsMultiple instruments
Years active1976–1982
Formerly of

Patrick Joseph Cowley (October 19, 1950 – November 12, 1982) was an American disco and hi-NRG dance music composer and recording artist, best known for his collaborations with disco singer Sylvester. Along with Giorgio Moroder, he has been credited as a pioneer of electronic dance music.[1][2]

Early life[edit]

Cowley was born October 19, 1950, in Buffalo, New York,[3] 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 (CCSF) where he studied music, specifically the use of synthesizers, from Gerald Mueller.[3][4][5][6][7][8][9]

Musical career[edit]

Cowley met San Francisco-based musician Sylvester in 1978.[3] 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 No. 1 and No. 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. Cowley recorded an album at The Stud in San Francisco.[10][11] He also wrote and produced the dance single "Right on Target" for San Francisco artist Paul Parker, which reached No. 1 on the Billboard dance chart in 1982. "Do Ya Wanna Funk", a collaboration with Sylvester, made No. 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.[12]


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 HIV/AIDS virus – at the time still referred to as "gay-related immune deficiency" (GRID) by American doctors – misdiagnosis was common and so Cowley, who was gay,[13] was discharged from the hospital (in 1982) after doctors could do nothing more for him. Cowley died at his home in the Castro District neighborhood in San Francisco on November 12, 1982.[3][14] He was 32 years old, an early victim of AIDS.[15]


Despite never fully achieving mainstream commercial success, Cowley is nevertheless regarded as a pioneer of early electronic music and the creator of hi-NRG, an uptempo strain of disco.[16][17] Various 1980s artists such as Pet Shop Boys and New Order have cited his influence as a producer.[17] Cowley has been described as "a musical pioneer whose achievements rippled throughout queer culture and beyond into the disco mainstream".[18]

Since the 2010s, Cowley's profile has risen as "listeners and scholars excavate disco's intersection with gay liberation."[17]

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.[19][20] 2009 saw the release of Catholic, an album of post-punk-flavored collaborations with writer/singer Jorge Socarras, recorded from 1976 to 1979.[21]



Year Album name Artist(s) Label Notes
1981 Menergy Patrick Cowley Fusion Records
1981 Megatron Man Patrick Cowley Megatone Records [22]
1982 Mind Warp Patrick Cowley Megatone Records [23]
2009 Catholic Patrick Cowley, Jorge Socarras Macro Recordings Recorded 1976–1979
2013 School Daze Patrick Cowley Dark Entries Records Recorded 1973–1981.[24] School Daze, a collection of electronic instrumentals (influenced by Giorgio Moroder, Isao Tomita, and Wendy Carlos). The album contains several soundtrack cues from the eponymous gay porn film.[24]
2015 Kickin' In Patrick Cowley Dark Entries Records Recorded 1975–1978[24][25]
2015 Muscle Up Patrick Cowley Dark Entries Records Recorded 1973–1981[26]
2016 Candida Cosmica Patrick Cowley, Candida Royalle Dark Entries Records Recorded 1973–1975.[27][28] Candida Cosmica an album co-created by Candida Royalle and featured experimental synthesizer music.[27][28] Candida Cosmica may be a nod to both female sexuality and gay pornography existing within the same sound.[27][28][14]
2017 Afternooners Patrick Cowley Recorded 1982[24]
2019 Mechanical Fantasy Box Patrick Cowley
2020 Some Funkettes Patrick Cowley
2022 Malebox Patrick Cowley Dark Entries Records Recorded 1979–1981

Notable collaborations[edit]

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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Niebur, Louis (February 17, 2022). "4: The First Wave of the San Francisco Sound". Menergy: San Francisco's Gay Disco Sound. Oxford University Press. pp. 61–77. doi:10.1093/oso/9780197511077.003.0005.
  2. ^ Heinzmann, Daniel (2002). Patrick Cowley: 'The San Francisco Sound' – Official Biography 1950–1982 Archived September 17, 2018, at the Wayback Machine. Self-published, page 1. Quoting Megatone artist David Diebold: "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."
  3. ^ a b c d "Remembering Patrick Cowley, Pioneer of Dance Music and Occasional Composer of Porn Soundtracks". Hyperallergic. February 12, 2020. Retrieved February 13, 2020.
  4. ^ "Gerald Mueller's Electronic Music Lab: Meet the Man Who Taught Patrick Cowley How to Use a Synthesizer". daily.redbullmusicacademy.com. Retrieved August 7, 2022.
  5. ^ "Gerald Mueller". CCSF. Retrieved August 7, 2022.
  6. ^ "Madeline Mueller". CCSF. Retrieved August 7, 2022.
  7. ^ "Patrick Cowley Is One of Disco's Most Important Producers. These Are His Must-Hear Deep Cuts". Pitchfork. January 17, 2018. Retrieved August 7, 2022.
  8. ^ "Patrick Cowley - Albums, Songs, and News". Pitchfork. Retrieved August 7, 2022.
  9. ^ "The Beat Goes on". T. Scot Halpin Archive. Retrieved August 7, 2022.
  10. ^ "Patrick Cowley". ct insider. Retrieved August 7, 2022.
  11. ^ Bartlett, Amanda (May 21, 2020). "'Our city will never be the same': Why it's not the end for the Stud — yet". CT Insider. Retrieved August 7, 2022.
  12. ^ Potts, Diana. "Patrick Cowley biography". AllMusic. Retrieved July 16, 2009.
  13. ^ "OutFront Music Reviews: Various Artists". Out Magazine. June 2002. Retrieved March 27, 2019 – via Google Books.
  14. ^ a b Lefebvre, Sam (August 5, 2016). "Waking the Spirit of a Disco Innovator". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 27, 2019.
  15. ^ Dayal, Geeta (October 26, 2016). "San Fran-disco: how Patrick Cowley and Sylvester changed dance music forever". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Archived from the original on April 17, 2023. Retrieved March 27, 2024.
  16. ^ Wray, Daniel Dylan (October 30, 2017). "The gay porn music of disco pioneer Patrick Cowley". i-D. Vice Media. Retrieved September 21, 2020.
  17. ^ a b c Lefebvre, Sam (August 5, 2016). "Waking the Spirit of a Disco Innovator". The New York Times. Retrieved September 21, 2020.
  18. ^ Ryce, Andrew (November 5, 2017). "Patrick Cowley - Afternooners". Resident Advisor. Retrieved September 21, 2020.
  19. ^ "LGBT History Month: The AIDS Masterpiece of a Lost Disco Pioneer". Gawker.com. Retrieved December 5, 2013.
  20. ^ "Today's Song: Patrick Cowley 'Menergy'". Gawker.com. Retrieved December 5, 2013.
  21. ^ Lefebvre, Sam (August 5, 2016). "Waking The Spirit of a Disco Innovator: the New York Times on Patrick Cowley". The New York Times. Retrieved February 18, 2021.
  22. ^ "PATRICK COWLEY DISCOGRAPHY". webs.advance.com.ar/dheinz. May 11, 2017. Archived from the original on May 11, 2017. Retrieved August 7, 2022.
  23. ^ "LYRICS". webs.advance.com.ar/dheinz. January 25, 2008. Archived from the original on January 25, 2008. Retrieved August 7, 2022.
  24. ^ a b c d "Patrick Cowley – School Daze 2xLP". Dark Entries Records. Retrieved December 5, 2013.
  25. ^ "Hear Kickin' In, an unearthed EP by disco legend Patrick Cowley". FACT Magazine. October 21, 2015. Retrieved February 13, 2020.
  26. ^ "Patrick Cowley: Muscle Up". Pitchfork. Retrieved February 13, 2020.
  27. ^ a b c Dayal, Geeta (October 26, 2016). "San Fran-disco: how Patrick Cowley and Sylvester changed dance music forever". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved March 27, 2019.
  28. ^ a b c "Patrick Cowley / Candida Royalle: Candida Cosmica". Pitchfork. Retrieved March 27, 2019.

External links[edit]