Born in Harlem, raised in Connecticut and currently living somewhere in the stratosphere, DJ/producer/singer Moby was electronic music's first superstar and is still one of its most recognizable icons.
With his 11th album—the impressively eclectic Innocents—out now, we're looking back on his catalog and highlighting the most fascinating samples from his three-decade career. From the Twin Peaks riff that first got him noticed to the easy listening orchestral track he turned into that Bourne trilogy banger, here are Moby's 11 Most Inventive Samples.
- "Laura Palmer's Theme" by Angelo Badalamenti (1990)
Why we love it: For his second single, Moby grabbed the ominous synth riff from "Laura Palmer's Theme," a recurring musical number from David Lynch's TV series Twin Peaks. It's no shock this became the 25-year-old DJ's first hit: Twin Peaks mania was sweeping the country in 1990, so putting an insistent techno beat behind a familiar melody was a surefire way to get some attention.
- "Funky Drummer" by James Brown (1970)
Why we love it: As a pioneer of the EDM movement, it feels right that Moby incorporates the Godfather of Soul's endlessly sampled classic into one of his early works. But Moby wasn't content to merely reuse the same drum break everyone else samples from "Funky Drummer." Grabbing a few seconds of Brown's laugh and moan heard at the 5:39 mark, Moby loops it over a piano riff in this disco-influenced production (beginning at 0:31 in "Drug Fits the Face"). To a casual listener, it's nothing more than a laugh, but to Moby, it's a beat!
- "Let No Man Put Asunder" by First Choice (1977)
Why we love it: The third single from Moby's self-titled debut was a ridiculous fast, intricately programmed rave track called "Next is the E." The soulful female vocal that's chopped up and sampled throughout comes from the 1977 disco-soul track "Let No Man Put Asunder" from Philly R&B trio First Choice.
- "Run On for a Long Time" by Bill Landford and the Landfordaires (1949)
Why we love it: Moby's blockbuster album Play got some backlash from techno purists for branching into different genres. But when the results are as affecting as "Run On," who cares if it's textbook electronic music? "Run On" samples a 1949 recording of the traditional folk song "God's Gonna Cut You Down" by the extremely obscure vocal group Bill Landford & the Landfordaires (their version was titled "Run On for a Long Time"). Moby adds a minimal house beat, some record scratches and ambient flourishes to create one of the more memorable folk-meets-electronic tracks ever.
- "Love Rap" by Spoonie Gee (1979)
Why we love it: Harlem rapper Spoonie Gee was one of the first rap artists ever, and his conga drum-driven 1979 single "Love Rap" (which thematically is anything but romantic) is a minimalistic old school classic. Gee's voice becomes the central sample of Moby's "Bodyrock," a hit on both the dance and rock charts that effortlessly mixed hip hop, techno and synth-pop into a classic track.
- "Apache" by Incredible Bongo Band (1973)
Why we love it: Even though Moby dives deep into electronic music, he couldn't resist a good ole bongo breakdown. With hard-hitting beats and buzzing synthesizers, "Machete" makes an aural shift at 1:43 when bongos are layered over synths and the track's singing turns into shouting, adding a sense of urgency. "Apache" was first popularized by instrumental rock outfit the Shadows in 1960 and was famously interpolated by the Sugarhill Gang for their 1981 classic of the same name.
- "Trouble So Hard" by Vera Hall (1937)
Why we love it: This track is from 1937. Yes, 1937!!! We were still in the early stages of creating tape recorders in the '30s when Alabama folk singer Vera Hall was put on wax by folk music archivist John Lomax. When Moby used her voice on this downtempo techno track six decades later, it was just as soulful.
- "What's Up Front That Counts" by the Counts (1971)
Why we love it: Moby's biggest hit incorporated a sigh heard in this 1971 funk joint from Detroit R&B outfit the Counts. It's so subtle in the Gwen Stefani collabo, but once you hear it below, you won't be able to un-hear it.
- "Green Sally, Up" by Mattie Garder, Mary Gardner and Jesse Lee Pratcher (1958)
Why we love it: "Green Sally, Up" is actually a children's clapping game song, performed by three female singers in 1958 and recorded by folk archivist Alan Lomax for the 1960 compilation Sounds of the South. Major props to Moby for getting us to groove to a kids tune.
- "Everybody's Talkin'" by Hugo Winterhalter (1974)
Why we love it: With "Extreme Ways," Moby managed to turn some of his lamest source material into one of his coolest tracks. The 18 single—which famous appears in closing credits of the first two Bourne movies—samples an obscure version of "Everybody's Talkin,'" which was originally made famous by Harry Nilsson. Now Nilsson's version is an Oscar-winning classic, but to create this banger, Moby sampled the strings from an orchestral cover of "Everybody's Talkin'" conducted by easy listening maestro Hugo Winterhalter. When Moby's had his way with it, the rather limp strings take on a new urgency and grandiose scope.
- "Sock It to Me" by Eleventh Hour (1976)
Why we love it: The second single off his underrated 2008 album Last Night combined a funky vocal riff from the 1970s R&B group the Eleventh Hour as well as soulful verses performed by Broadway singer-actress Shayna Steele. You'd think both vocal parts were performed by the same singer, but one is a sample recorded 30 years prior! "Disco Lies" is a cool combo of singers past and present.
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