Photo: Bettmann/Getty Images
Gershon Kingsley, Electronic Music Pioneer And Composer, Dies at 97
Gershon Kingsley, widely regarded as one of the premier pioneers of electronic music and an early champion of the genre's defining synthesizer-based sound and technology, died Dec. 10. He was 97.
While details surrounding the cause of his death have yet to be released, his family confirmed the news in a post shared on Kingsley's Twitter page, stating, "Gershon passed away peacefully in his sleep."
The Bob Moog Foundation, the namesake nonprofit of the Moog synthesizer inventor, shared the organization's condolences on its official Twitter page, calling Kingsley a "pioneering synthesist and legendary composer."
Kingsley, born Götz Gustav Ksinski in Germany in 1922, is best known for his 1969 instrumental track "Popcorn," featured on his debut solo album, Music To Moog By, released that same year. He rerecorded and rereleased the track in 1979 with his band, First Moog Quartet, and again in 1972 as The Popcorn Makers.
Widely considered one of the first-ever electronic hit singles, "Popcorn" became a surprise smash when Stan Free, who was part of Kingsley’s First Moog Quartet, rerecorded the track with his band Hot Butter. Released in 1972, and featured on the band's self-titled album that same year, the Hot Butter version of "Popcorn" became a top 10 hit in the U.S. and the U.K., in addition to topping the charts in Australia and across Europe.
Artists like Herb Alpert, Muse, Jean-Michel Jarre, Aphex Twin, and The Muppets have since covered the track. A 2005 version of the track from Crazy Frog, the popular CGI character used in various advertising campaigns from ringtone provider Jamba! (Jamster), was certified diamond status in France.
Prior to his solo career, Kingsley was a member of the trailblazing electronic music duo Perrey and Kingsley, alongside equally influential pioneer Jean-Jacques Perrey. Their seminal 1966 debut album as a duo, The In Sound From Way Out!, is largely credited for making electronic music more accessible to mainstream audiences and is considered a groundbreaking release within the genre for its use of technologically advanced production techniques. Their 1967 track "Baroque Hoedown"—featured on their second album, Kaleidoscopic Vibrations: Electronic Pop Music From Way Out, released that same year—became the soundtrack to the Main Street Electrical Parade show used across Disney's theme parks.
Beyond pop music, Kingsley was renowned in the musical and Broadway worlds. A two-time Obie Award winner, he received a Tony nomination in 1958 for Best Musical Direction for his work in the Broadway hit, "La Plume de Ma Tante."
Kingsley's work also extends into the TV and film industries. He won an Emmy Award for his music for "A New Voice In The Wilderness," in addition to winning a pair of Clio Awards for his music in TV commercials. He also composed the theme music for several game shows, including "The Joker's Wild" in the U.S. as well as multiple German shows.
In his later years, Kingsley experimented with electronic New Age music in the '80s, in which he implemented early digital synthesizers, and composed works for musical, opera and theatrical performances and concerts throughout the '90s.
In the 2000s, Kingsley, who previously composed religious works inspired by Jewish and Hebrew texts, worked on projects influenced by his Jewish heritage, including: "Selma," which comprised songs inspired by the poetry of Holocaust victim Selma Meerbaum-Eisinger; and "RAOUL," an opera in collaboration with Michael Kunze about Raoul Wallenberg, a Swede who saved tens of thousands of Jewish people during the Holocaust.
Kingsley is survived by his daughters, Melinda and Alisse, his son-in-law Victor LaPlaca and his grandson Max.