Patrick Cowley
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)
San Francisco, California, U.S.
InstrumentsMultiple instruments
Years active1976–1982
Associated acts

Patrick Joseph Cowley (October 19, 1950 – November 12, 1982) was an American disco and hi-NRG dance music composer and recording artist. Along with Giorgio Moroder, he often is credited as a pioneer of electronic dance music.[1]

Early life

Patrick Cowley was born October 19, 1950 in Buffalo, New York[2] 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 (CCSF) where he studied music, specifically the use of synthesizers.[2]

Musical career

Cowley met San Francisco-based musician Sylvester in 1978.[2] 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.[3]


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,[4] 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.[2][5] 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.


Despite remaining largely unknown, Cowley is regarded as a pioneer of early electronic music and the creator of hi-NRG, an uptempo strain of disco.[6][7] His influence as a producer was cited by New Romantic acts such as Pet Shop Boys and New Order.[7] Cowley has been described as "a musical pioneer whose achievements rippled throughout queer culture and beyond into the disco mainstream".[8]

Since the 2010s, Cowley's profile has risen as "listeners and scholars excavate disco's intersection with gay liberation."[7]

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.[9][10] 2009 saw the release of Catholic, a compilation of post-punk-flavored collaborations with writer/singer Jorge Socarras from 1976 to 1979.



Year Album name Artist(s) Label Notes
1981 Menergy Patrick Cowley Fusion Records
1981 Megatron Man Patrick Cowley Megatone Records
1982 Mind Warp Patrick Cowley Megatone Records
2009 Catholic Patrick Cowley, Jorge Socarras Macro Recordings Recorded 1976-1979.
2013 School Daze Patrick Cowley Dark Entries Records Recorded 1973-1981.[11] 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.[11]
2015 Kickin' In Patrick Cowley Dark Entries Records Recorded 1975-1978.[11][12]
2015 Muscle Up Patrick Cowley Dark Entries Records Recorded 1973-1981.[13]
2016 Candida Cosmica Patrick Cowley, Candida Royalle Dark Entries Records Recorded 1973-1975.[14][15] Candida Cosmica an album co-created by Candida Royalle and featured experimental synthesizer music.[14][15] Candida Cosmica may be a nod to both female sexuality and gay pornography existing within the same sound.[14][15][5]
2017 Afternooners Patrick Cowley Recorded 1982.[11]
2019 Mechanical Fantasy Box Patrick Cowley
2020 Some Funkettes Patrick Cowley

Notable collaborations

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


  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. ^ a b c d "Remembering Patrick Cowley, Pioneer of Dance Music and Occasional Composer of Porn Soundtracks". Hyperallergic. 2020-02-12. Retrieved 2020-02-13.
  3. ^ Patrick Cowley biography, by Diana Potts, hosted at Retrieved 16 July 2009.
  4. ^ "OutFront Music Reviews: Various Artists". Out Magazine. June 2002. Retrieved 2019-03-27 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ a b Lefebvre, Sam (2016-08-05). "Waking the Spirit of a Disco Innovator". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-03-27.
  6. ^ Wray, Daniel Dylan (October 30, 2017). "The gay porn music of disco pioneer Patrick Cowley". i-D. Vice Media. Retrieved September 21, 2020.
  7. ^ a b c Lefebvre, Sam (August 5, 2016). "Waking the Spirit of a Disco Innovator". The New York Times. Retrieved September 21, 2020.
  8. ^ Ryce, Andrew (November 5, 2017). "Patrick Cowley - Afternooners". Resident Advisor. Retrieved September 21, 2020.
  9. ^ "LGBT History Month: The AIDS Masterpiece of a Lost Disco Pioneer". Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  10. ^ "Today's Song: Patrick Cowley 'Menergy'". Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  11. ^ a b c d "Patrick Cowley – School Daze 2xLP". Dark Entries Records. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  12. ^ "Hear Kickin' In, an unearthed EP by disco legend Patrick Cowley". FACT Magazine. 2015-10-21. Retrieved 2020-02-13.
  13. ^ "Patrick Cowley: Muscle Up". Pitchfork. Retrieved 2020-02-13.
  14. ^ a b c 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.
  15. ^ a b c "Patrick Cowley / Candida Royalle: Candida Cosmica". Pitchfork. Retrieved 2019-03-27.