Meet the Italian ‘father of disco’ still behind the decks at 78

Pioneering Italian composer Giorgio Moroder, famed for the Oscar-winning soundtracks to Flashdance, Top Gun and Midnight Express, and for his collaboration with music royalty like Donna Summer and Daft Punk, is showing no sign of slowing down as he turns 78.

Meet the Italian 'father of disco' still behind the decks at 78
Giorgio Moroder performing last July. Photo: Jason Kempin / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

Known as one of the 'fathers of disco', the veteran musician will celebrate his birthday by playing a DJ set in Los Angeles. A household name in the 70s and 80s, Moroder was propelled back into the limelight in 2013 when French electro stars Daft Punk contacted him.

“I've always liked the group,” Moroder told AFP, admitting that when Daft Punk got in touch, he thought that the duo wanted him to compose something for them.

“Actually they just asked me to talk, and they recorded,” he said. “We composed the music together, but it was mostly their work.”

In the resulting hit entitled “Giorgio by Moroder” the disco legend's subtle accent floats over the top of Daft Punk's electro beat and he recalls his beginnings in music: from his “big dreams”, to his years driving to “discotheques” in Germany to perform, and sleeping in his car until he got his break.

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Working with the group gave Moroder a new lease of life in the industry, and in 2015 he released an album “Deja Vu”, collaborating with top artists like Sia, Britney Spears and Kelis. But the Italian says his best memory dates back to 1979 when he won his first Oscar for the soundtrack to prison drama Midnight Express.

“I was known for disco, for pop, and usually composers who make soundtracks have a classical music background. For me, winning that Oscar was not only a surprise, but an achievement.”

Over his career, he has worked with rock giants like Freddie Mercury, David Bowie and Debbie Harry, but it was his long collaboration with disco star Donna Summer, that brought him international fame in the 70s.

He reveals, however, that their erotic 1975 hit “Love to Love You Baby,” famous for Summer's sexy moans, was not all that it seemed.

“Donna's parents weren't very happy and she was also a bit embarrassed, it was more of a joke when we recorded it,” he recalls, adding that he never believed the song “would become such as success.”

A pioneer in the industry, Moroder was one of the first artists to use a synthesizer in his 1972 song “Son of my Father”.

“It allowed you to create sounds which didn't exist, effects that you can do with a guitar or piano, the possibilities were immense,” said Moroder.

Now approaching 80, the producer-turned-DJ divides his time between his native Italy and Los Angeles and insists he will continue to perform, with plans for a tour in the pipeline.

And has he got any regrets from his long career? Perhaps only one thing: not composing the music for “Fame” when given the opportunity.

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Italian Eurovision winner tests negative for drugs

Damiano David, the frontman of Italy's Eurovision winners Maneskin, has passed a drug test he took on Monday to clear his name after speculation that he had snorted cocaine at the song contest's grand final.

Italian Eurovision winner tests negative for drugs
Damiano David of Maneskin performs at the Eurovision final. Photo: KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / AFP

A drug test was “voluntarily undertaken earlier today by the lead singer of the band Måneskin which has returned a negative result seen by the EBU”, the European Broadcasting Union announced on Monday evening. 

“No drug use took place in the Green Room and we consider the matter closed,” the EBU said in a statement, adding that it had checked all available video footage as part of “a thorough review of the facts”.

READ ALSO: Italian Eurovision winners ‘really offended’ by accusations of drug use

David, who was shown on camera leaning over a table backstage in what some speculated could be drug use, had strongly denied the allegations. 

He said the footage showed him sweeping up some glass broken by one of his bandmates.

Måneskin with their trophy after winning the final of the 65th Eurovision Song Contest. Photo: Sander Koning / ANP / AFP

There had been calls for “total transparency” from officials in France, which came a close second in the song contest, after the clip went viral following Saturday’s final in the Netherlands.

The French minister for Europe said that drug use should be grounds for disqualification, though the head of France’s public broadcasting group said they did not plan to challenge the result.

David told interviewers he was “really offended” by the speculation, which he said had marred Italy’s first Eurovision victory in 31 years.

“We are alarmed that inaccurate speculation leading to fake news has overshadowed the spirit and the outcome of the event and unfairly affected the band,” the EBU said, adding that it was looking forward to “a spectacular Eurovision Song Contest in Italy next year”.