After 30 Years, Giorgio Moroder Returns To The Dance Floor Moroder has the honor, and the misfortune, of being on the front lines of two musical eras that eventually fell out of fashion. Now, he's back with Déjà Vu, his first new album in 30 years.

After 30 Years, Giorgio Moroder Returns To The Dance Floor

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Not many people can say they helped to invent an entire genre of music, but Giorgio Moroder. The 75-year-old songwriter and producer played a big role in defining disco during the '70s. He wielded his synthesizer through the '80s, making a dominant sound in pop music and in movie soundtracks. Now he's back with his first new album of dance music in 30 years. Tim Greiving has the story.

TIM GREIVING, BYLINE: Giorgio Moroder has the honor - and the misfortune - of being on the front lines of not one, but two musical eras that eventually went out of fashion.


GREIVING: He became a pioneer in the disco movement, producing and writing hits for, among others, Donna Summer.


DONNA SUMMER: (Singing) Oh, it's so good, it's so good, it's so good, it's so good.

GIORGIO MORODER: I always liked rhythmical music. Even before disco, mostly my songs were all up-tempo. I'm not a great dancer, but I just sometimes feel like I need rhythm in my life.

GREIVING: Moroder, who was born in a German-speaking province of Italy in 1940, invaded the European and American popular music scene just as the synthesizer was coming of age in the late '60s and early '70s.


MORODER: I must say it was a lucky coincidence. I was listening to Walter Carlos when he played the album "Switched-On Bach," I thought this is the instrument which I would love to use. And then I found this guy in Germany who had one. And it changed a little bit my life.


GREIVING: Moroder and his synthesizer survived the death of disco at the end of the 1970s by going to the movies.


GREIVING: Moroder's score for "Midnight Express" won him his first Oscar in 1979, beating out John Williams's old-school symphonic score for "Superman."

MORODER: Suddenly, I became a movie composer, which, I must say, before me, it was almost impossible for a pop composer to get into this world. So that changed a lot of my life, so I kind of survived quite well while a lot of disco acts just died out.

GREIVING: He went on to compose the scores for "Scarface," "American Gigolo" and "Cat People." He also wrote and produced songs for movies and won an Oscar for "What A Feeling" from "Flashdance" and another for "Take My Breath Away" from "Top Gun."


BERLIN: (Singing) Watching every motion in my foolish lover's gaze.

GREIVING: And then it all dried up. Audiences and producers got tired of the synthesizer and movie offers came less and less. Moroder released his last album of songs in 1985 and wrote his last film score in 1992.

MORODER: But I had so many different hobbies and ideas - I built a car, I did some artwork, computer-generated stuff. And then I retired more and more, and I had a great life playing golf. And I was kind of always really busy, but not necessarily with music.

GREIVING: But that doesn't mean people weren't listening to his old stuff, says Chris Cox, a successful producer, DJ and sometime-Moroder collaborator.

CHRIS COX: These hipster DJs know, like, the "Battle Star Galactica" soundtrack inside and out and these, like, deeper cuts. You talk to any 10 DJs from the techno world, the trance world, the house world, you know, of like who were the influential records or the influential producers, and his name's going to come up invariably every time.

GREIVING: Fast forward to 2012 when Moroder was asked to DJ a 12-minute set for a Louis Vuitton fashion show.

MORODER: So then I was offered to do a gig in Cannes in the amFar for Elton John as a DJ. Then I did a DJ gig in New York for Red Bull Music Academy, and suddenly, I was a DJ. And then the Daft Punk guys came and asked me if I wanted to collaborate with them on a song for their album.


GREIVING: Daft Punk, the electronica duo from France, has called Moroder a huge influence. And Chris Cox says Moroder taught him something vital about makes good dance music.

COX: He just kept saying where's the melody? You know, because in dance music, so much is just built around the groove and everything is all about the pulsing and the drums and all this. So then I would give these, like, instrument tracks for him, and he was just like where's the melody? Where's the song? And it kind of really pounded that in my head that it's like you need a something of a little more substance than just having a moving rhythm track.


KYLIE MINOGUE: (Singing) When the lights start flashing, you can open up your eyes. And the highest mountain is the one that you have climbed

MORODER: The synthesizer is definitely back, and I said to myself I could do this in my sleep kind of because I did it 30 years ago.

GREIVING: Giorgio Moroder still writes songs pretty much the way he did back then, only today, he uses a computer

MORODER: I put headphones on with a click or a drum machine. I listen to the rhythm, and then I start playing mostly the chords, and I start to sing over and over.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Singing) Murder is in the music.

MORODER: So now here, I have the strings (playing synthesizer). Here I have the (playing synthesizer) bass (playing synthesizer) kick (playing synthesizer).


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Singing) And it's in vain.

MORODER: And then I rest for a day or so, and I listen again. And if I still like it, then I continue. If I don't like it, I just throw it away.

GREIVING: After all, at this point in his career, he's got nothing to prove.

MORODER: The main thing is that I love music, especially I love dance music. When I'm in the car and hear, I just love it. It's not a job for me to write music. It's a hobby. It's something I really like to do.

GREIVING: So for now, the golf clubs are sitting in the closet. For NPR News, I'm Tim Greiving in Los Angeles.


MINOGUE: (Singing) Staring into your eyes, I see the sunrise.

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