Neil Bogart was the founder of label Casablanca Records, known for acts like Donna Summer, KISS, the Village People and Cher.
Neil Bogart was born on February 3, 1943, in Brooklyn, New York. A lover of music, he headed Buddah Records for a time, and by the mid-1970s founded Casablanca Records, which housed rock act KISS and major disco/pop acts like Donna Summer, Giorgio Moroder, the Village People and Cher. Bogart launched the label Boardwalk as well before he died of cancer on May 9, 1982.
Casablanca Records founder Neil Bogart was born Neil Scott Bogatz in Brooklyn, New York, on February 3, 1943. He was a student at the High School of the Performing Arts and subsequently worked as a cruise line singer, also having a 1961 pop single, "Bobby."
Bogatz went through several name changes before going by Neil Bogart and being hired by Cashbox magazine as an ad salesperson. He soon became an executive at Cameo-Parkway Records and then, in 1967, moved on to becoming general manager of Buddah Records. The label was successful, with bubblegum acts like The Ohio Express (known for the hit "Yummy, Yummy, Yummy") and also with soul greats like Curtis Mayfield, The Isley Brothers and The Edwin Hawkins Singers.
Founding Casablanca Records
By the mid-1970s, Bogart worked with Warner Bros. to found Casablanca Records, with the label later going independent. (Polygram would eventually buy half of Bogart's company share.) Casablanca became known as a platform for dance icons Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder, rock group KISS, the Village People, George Clinton's Parliament-Funkadelic, Phylicia Rashad (performing then as Phylicia Allen) and Cher. The company also put a premium on big-time promotions, including merchandise tie-ins.
Casablanca found major success, with record sales into the tens of millions, and Bogart transitioned into big-screen projects as well, producing The Deep (1977) and Thank God It's Friday (1978); the latter film's track "Last Dance," performed by Summer and written by Paul Jabara, won an Academy Award for best original song.
Along with its musical accomplishments, Casablanca also became known for an out-of-control mode of operations that involved excessive spending, dubious business practices and rampant drug use. More unrest followed, with Summer suing the label for millions. Bogart left Casablanca in 1980, selling his remaining shares to Polygram, and turned his sights to founding another label, Boardwalk, which housed acts like Ringo Starr, Harry Chapin, Mac Davis and Joan Jett.
Yet Bogart's ambitions were cut short due to failing health. He died of cancer on May 8, 1982, in Los Angeles, at 39. He was survived by four children and his second wife, Joyce, whom he married in 1976 and worked closely with.
And Party Every Day: The Inside Story of Casablanca Records, a look at Casablanca, was published in 2009, authored by Larry Harris, Bogart's cousin and the co-founder of the label. And in May 2013, it was announced that singer/actor Justin Timberlake will be portraying Bogart in the biopic Spinning Gold, serving as a producer on the project as well.