Spinning Gold Puts the Magic of the Infamous 1970s Casablanca Records and its Visionary Founder Neil Bogart on the Big Screen
The greatest Artists of all time seem to have emerged fully formed from the ether of musical legend as if their success had been simply undeniable and preordained. As if Donna Summer didn’t so much write “Love to Love Ya Baby,” as manifest it; as if KISS’ timeless anthem “Rock N’ Roll Nite” wasn’t so much composed, as delivered fully-realized from hard rock Valhalla directly to Paul Stanley and Gene Simmon’s fingertips.
But history knows better. And the story of Neil Bogart, the explosive, perpetual motion machine behind superstars Donna Summer, Kiss, Parliament, Gladys Knight, Bill Withers, Curtis Mayfield, the Village People, and a host of other globally renowned superstars is the story of where some of the greatest music of our lives really came from.
The legend of Casablanca Records reads like something out of a music industry fever dream: after defining new music genres like Bubble Gum (“Yummy Yummy Yummy”) and the Gospel-Crossover (“Oh Happy Day”), founder Neil Bogart gets tired of battling his corporate boss’ instincts to say “no” and strikes out on his own to launch what would become the biggest independent label in music history at the time. But rising to those heights would come at a great cost.
Now that story is finally hitting the big screen courtesy of an audacious biopic due to be released on March 31st, written and directed by Timothy Scott Bogart, Neil’s son. As Bogart explains, “Spinning Gold will chart the impossible and improbable story of a group of dreamers who once upon a time lived a fairy tale, and together, changed the music business forever.”
Taking us through the greatest hits of some of the wildest stories ever told, the film boasts a star-studded cast, including Wiz Khalifa as George Clinton, Jeremy Jordan as Neil Bogart, Ledisi as Gladys Knight, Jason DeRulo as Ronald Isley, Pink Sweat$ as Bill Withers, Sebastian Maniscalco as Giorgio Moroder, and Tayla Parx as the one and only Donna Summer.
“My father’s gift was being able to see the music as much as hear it. He understood the power of these songs and knew that the secret to unlocking their potential, was in believing in the dreamers and artists who created them, and that’s the story we’ve set out to tell” says Bogart.
The film’s opening scene takes us through the memory of how Bogart discovered one of his first hits at Buddah Records, “Oh Happy Day,” sung by a gospel group called the Edwin Hawkin Singers. And as legend has it, Bogart secured the song with a briefcase full of cash and a cross country flight during one of the biggest storms in years as his crew kept the Reverend Hawkins on the phone line so no one else could outbid them. All while Bogart leaned on his friends in the mob to help tip the scales. The set piece serves a dual purpose, both to introduce us to the larger than life character that is Bogart, as well as to let the audience know that for the next two hours, they’re in for a ride.
Spinning Gold then takes the audience on the impossible trip through one near-death experience after the next as Casablanca struggles to stay alive before finally finding unprecedented glory in the mid-1970s.
“Most people believe Kiss must have been an instant hit,” Spinning Gold producer Jessica Martins explains. “Most assume everybody loved Donna Summer right off the bat. None of that was true. Kiss was a disaster from the moment they were introduced, and ‘Love To Love Ya Baby,’ was released and instantly forgotten about. Nobody cared. And had Neil Bogart listened to anyone other than his own instincts, that could have been the end of Casablanca right there.”
Lucky for music fans, those early misfires didn’t spell the demise of Casablanca Records. The label would go on to release seminal records like Donna Summer’s “Last Dance”, KISS’ “Shout It Out Loud,” Parliament’s funk classic “Give Up The Funk,” as well as “Y.M.C.A.,” one of the biggest hit singles in music history from the Village People.
It’s no wonder then, that music and musicians are at the heart of Spinning Gold. Evan Bogart—a Grammy-award winning songwriter (“Halo”) and producer—serves as the film’s executive music producer, and sees the movie as a way to give audiences a lens through which to see iconic artists in the manner his father did. “We wanted that moment of discovery to come across in this film,” he says. “The moment Neil saw that magic in these artists, that lightning in a bottle. My dad was able to see something in people that they weren’t able to see in themselves, and then amplify that quality and elevate it. When people think of the music business greats – it’s Clive Davis, it’s Jimmy Iovine, and yes, it’s Neil Bogart, they were the greatest showmen – but his story, simply got lost to history. Until now.”
Neil Bogart’s vision led to some of the most influential and celebrated artists of all time, and Spinning Gold puts that story on the big screen for the very first time. Musicians like the Isley Brothers, Bill Withers, Donna Summer, and KISS don’t emerge as fully formed successes overnight. They need someone to believe in their magic and give them a shot when no one else will. That was the power of Neil Bogart and Casablanca Records.
Don’t miss Spinning Gold, coming to theaters on March 31st, 2023.