French electronic music pioneer Jean-Jacques Perrey died Friday at 87. He quit medical school after encountering synthesizers to spend his life making beautiful sounds with them. Frequent collaborator Dana Countryman writes:
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For those who don’t realize it, Jean-Jacques first started recording electronic music in 1952, long before the Moog synthesizer was first made for sale in 1967. Relocating from Paris to New York City, JJ actually owned and recorded with the second Moog ever produced, and with his musical partner Gershon Kingsley, they released their first Moog album -- almost two years before Wendy Carlos released her first Moog album. Jean-Jacques was truly the pioneer of popular electronic music.
His crazy, happy music has been heard everywhere from commercials, to Sesame Street - in hip-hop songs, in dance remixes and most famously, for decades in the delightful featured music in Disneyland’s
“Main Street Electrical Parade”. In recent years, his music has even made appearances on The Simpsons, and on Comedy Central’s “South Park”.
As a teenager growing up in the ‘70s, I was charmed by Jean-Jacques’ inventive Moog albums released by Vanguard Records, and many times I secretly would smuggle those albums into my high school French class. There, instead of conjugating French verbs and nouns, (when the teacher wasn’t looking)
I would carefully sneak peeks at the back cover liner notes. I’d spend the class time dreaming impossible dreams of someday owning a Moog synthesizer of my own, and having a chance to twirl its many knobs, to unleash its wild cornucopia of never-heard-before sounds.