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Moby

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Also Known As: Richard M. Hall,Richard Melville Hall,Richard Hall (Moby) Died:
Born: Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Profession: Music ...
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BIOGRAPHY

As one of the most recognized and respected artists in electronic music, Moby paved the way for the genre to be accepted as mainstream music. The New York City native began his career performing with punk and rock bands before discovering his masterful skills as a DJ. Moby entered the electronic music scene during its underground era, but quickly helped to establish the genre's presence and commercial appeal with his hit albums Play (1999) and 18 (2002). Often blending electronic with contemporary American music, Moby infused blues, gospel, and pop layers and samples to his tracks as well as his collaborations with other artists. Moby's musical touch extended beyond his own albums, and he often contributed to various hit film soundtracks including "The Saint" (1997) and "Any Given Sunday" (1999) that heavily featured dance-oriented music and artists. Critics and fans alike lauded Moby for his undeniable musical genius and business savvy, yet it was his commercial success that brought a once-underground genre to the forefront of music that made him a true pioneer of electronic music.

Richard Melville Hall was born on Sept. 11, 1965 in New York City to chemistry professor James Frederick Hall and medical secretary Elizabeth McBride. A distant relative of author Herman Melville, his parents gave him the middle name as well as the nickname "Moby" as a tribute to the great American novel Moby Dick (1851). His mother raised the future star in Darien, CT, where he began experimenting with music. When he was nine years old, Moby learned to play classical guitar and studied music theory. Five years later, he was already performing with Connecticut hardcore punk band The Vatican Commandoes and the post-punk outfit AWOL while attending high school. Moby studied at the University and SUNY Purchase, landing DJ gigs at various house and hip-hop clubs around New York. In 1989, Moby signed a contract with Instinct Records, which helped propel his underground music career.

The release of Moby's debut single "Go" (1991), a progressive house track that sampled "Laura Palmer's Theme" from the ABC series "Twin Peaks" (1990-91), introduced his music to a larger audience, especially in the U.K. "Go" reached the U.K. Top 10 in late 1991 following Moby's debut appearance on the popular music show "Top of the Pops" (BBC, 1964-2006). His work also caught the attention of more established artists who wanted to branch out into the electronic genre, including rock legend David Bowie, rap superstars The Beastie Boys, and even the late King of Pop Michael Jackson. Moby remixed songs for these artists and more during the early 1990s, as well as toured with other up-and-coming electronic acts such as The Prodigy and Orbital, heralding a wave of underground club music that was about to go mainstream.

He released his self-titled debut in 1992, which included "Go" and "Thousand," a fast-paced track that earned the Guinness World Record in 1993 for having the fastest beats-per-minute (BPM) tempo. Moby began making inroads in mainstream music with his third album Everything is Wrong, a critically acclaimed release that landed at No. 21 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart. He returned to his punk rock roots the following year with Animal Rights. The critics were not impressed by Moby's departure from the electronic genre he helped pioneer with his earlier work. Regardless, his cover of the 1981 Mission of Burma single "That's When I Reach for My Revolver" garnered some controversy due to the song's title. After the BBC and MTV urged him to change the title to "That's When I Realize it's Over," fans of the original track were outraged. In 1997, Moby was given the honor of composing and performing the "James Bond Theme" for the soundtrack to the action feature "Tomorrow Never Dies" (1997).

After years of making his presence known on the underground music scene, Moby's commercial breakthrough finally came with the release of Play. His fourth studio album made a slow and steady climb on the U.S. charts, initially selling a mere 6,000 copies. While producing Play, Moby stayed true to his electronic sound, but added layers of other genres into the tracks, including the gospel-tinged "Honey" and a sample of folk singer Vera Hall's "Troubled So Hard" (1937) on "Natural Blues." He also called on No Doubt's front woman Gwen Stefani for the pop-rock duet "South Side." Play topped the charts in the U.K., Australia, and France, and went on to sell more than two million copies in the U.S. and earn Moby his first Grammy Award nominations for Best Alternative Music Performance and Best Rock Instrumental Performance.

He wasted no time releasing the much anticipated follow-up 18 in 2002, which bested its predecessor by peaking at No. 4 on the Billboard 200. The lead single "We Are All Made of Stars" was a commentary on the pop culture landscape, where celebrities were revered over thinkers and activists. The accompanying music video also established Moby as a visual artist, using imagery inspired by Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" (1968) and multiple celebrity cameos such as Gary Coleman and Molly Sims. Having established himself as electronic music royalty, Moby set out to prove he was also a savvy businessman by licensing his music for use in films, commercials and television programs. His songs would eventually be found on soundtracks for such movies as "The Saint" (1997), "Any Given Sunday" (1999) and "Ali" (2001). In 2002, he opened the Teany café on the Lower East Side district of Manhattan along with his then-girlfriend Kelly Tisdale. Teany featured a variety of teas and beverages, as well as a vegan menu that reflected the artist's own vegan lifestyle.

Almost as notable as his music was Moby's widely known political and charitable activism, animal being a particular concern. While keeping a nonpartisan stance on most issues, he campaigned for Democratic candidate John Kerry's presidential run in 2004. A proponent of aspiring artists and underground music, Moby launched and headlined the Area Festival in 2001, which promoted unsigned singers, bands, and DJs from various genres. After a brief absence on the charts, Moby returned in 2005 with his seventh album Hotel, again taking a departure from electronic music to experiment with alternative rock and ambient sounds. His later work's commercial appeal paled in comparison to the worldwide success of Play and 18, yet Moby continued working on various artistic endeavors, whether it was composing the film score for Richard Kelly's "Southland Tales" (2006), making an acting cameo in the comedy-horror "Suck" (2009), or releasing a book of photography titled Destroyed (2011). The latter accompanied an electronic and ambient album of the same name. In 2012, Moby remixed the track "Extreme Ways," which originally appeared in "The Bourne Identity" (2002), for the fourth installment of the film series "The Bourne Legacy."

By Candy Cuenco

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