Musician, singer. Moby was born as Richard Melville Hall on September 11, 1965, in Harlem, New York. However, his parents felt that such a grand name was unsuited for such a small, fragile child and instead decided to call him Moby, after the eponymous whale from Herman Melville's classic novel. In fact, as suggested by his middle name, Herman Melville is actually Moby's great-great-grand-uncle. "I've tried to read the book several times," Moby says of Moby Dick. "But I never quite got through it."
When Moby was born his mother, Elizabeth McBride Warner-Hall, was a student, and his father, James Hall, was a young lecturer in the chemistry department at Columbia University. Theirs was a troubled marriage and, when Moby's father died in an alcohol-related car crash in 1967, some hypothesized that the accident was a suicide. Moby was 2 years old when he lost his father and his mother, who was then only 23 years old, moved the family to Darien, Connecticut. There, his maternal grandparents could help raise him while his mother finished her college degree.
With his mother and grandmother both working full time, Moby was often left to his own devices. "I spent a lot of time by myself," he remembered. "And a lot of time was spent at my grandmother's house which was rambling and old and had big overgrown gardens, so there were a lot of places to get lost and entertain myself. I am grateful that as a little boy I had lots of strange and interesting places to play."
Moby also developed a love of music from a young age as was encouraged by his mother, who was an avid record collector and pianist. "She used to play me a lot of different stuff," Moby later said. "Some of it was very weird classical stuff, not the usual thing for a young child to listen to. But this became a huge influence on me when I was growing up." Moby started playing music himself at the age of 9, when he began classical guitar and music theory lessons. He attended Darien High School, where he and several friends formed a band called The Vatican Commandoes and released an EP entitled Hit Squad for God. Later in high school he joined another band, called Awol.
Upon graduating from high school in 1983, Moby attended the University of Connecticut to study philosophy. He dropped out after just one year, though, in order to pursue his budding music career full time. Throughout the mid-1980s Moby tried desperately to kick-start his music career. He worked at a record store in Darien; played in local bands like Caeli Soul and Gin Train; and started DJing for local nightclubs. It was as a DJ that Moby first started to achieve success, and he began performing gigs at a variety of nightclubs. In 1989, he moved to New York City and signed a contract with Instinct Records. He released his first single, "Mobility," in 1990 to limited acclaim. But it was his second single, "Go," that introduced Moby to mainstream audiences for the first time. "Go" became a Top 10 hit in the UK, and sent Moby on his way to becoming a key figure in electronic and dance music.
In 1995, Moby released his first full-length techno album, Everything is Wrong, and the record quickly became both a commercial and critical success. He followed in 1996 with a punk rock album, Animal Rights, and in 1997 with I Like to Score, a collection of his music that has been featured in various films. Moby then achieved worldwide fame and success with his 1999 album, Play. The album sold over 9 million copies worldwide, and featured the hit singles "Natural Blues" and "Porcelain." He followed Play with 18, another wildly successful album that sold over 4 million copies across the globe. Moby has since released three more albums, Hotel (2005), Last Night (2008) and Wait For Me (2009), on his own Little Idiot record label.
Alongside his music career, Moby has received widespread publicity for his religious faith and animal rights activism. He is very public about his deep Christian faith, something he says he discovered in the mid-1980s. "In about 1985 I read the teachings of Christ and was instantly struck by the idea that Christ was somehow divine," he remembers. "When I say I love Christ and love the teachings of Christ I mean that in the most simple and naive way. I'm not saying I'm right." Moby is also a dedicated vegan and animal rights activist—something he says has brought him considerable scorn in the entertainment industry. "I run into a lot of people who are instantly filled with ridicule at the idea that someone wouldn't eat meat," he said. Moby has expressed his views on religion and animal rights through essays included as inserts inside the cases for his CDs. He is also an active volunteer for organizations such as MoveOn and The Humane Society and an outspoken advocate of Tibetan independence.
Asked what he strives to achieve in his music, Moby answers that he wants to make music that not only entertains but performs a function. "Music can always serve a role in people's lives when it's emotional and warm and inviting and beautiful," he says. And while he does not fear the day when he is no longer a celebrity, Moby readily admits that he enjoys indulging in the spoils of fame. "I hope that when I find myself no longer a public figure, which could be in six months or two weeks or 10 years or whenever, I can give it up gracefully and not be bitter," he says. "But for now sometimes it's fun indulging in the pitfalls a little bit."