For more than three decades, Martin Torgoff has been at the forefront of major media trends and cultural currents, documenting and telling the story of America through the evolution of its popular culture. An award-winning journalist, author of prize-winning and best-selling books, documentary filmmaker and Emmy-nominated television writer, director and producer of shows that have been seen by millions, his work has encompassed music, art, film, theater, literature, politics, history, biography, sexuality, sports, sociology, and celebrity culture. As the New Yorker put it, “Martin Torgoff has been writing books and making films about sex, drugs and rock and roll for thirty years.”
Although an expert on the cultural landscape of the baby boom era, Torgoff’s interests range far and wide. His film Planet Rock: The Story of Hip Hop and the Crack Generation, produced for VH1, was nominated for Emmys in Outstanding Arts & Culture Programming and Outstanding Achievement in a Craft: Writing. In 2004, he published a landmark work about how illicit drugs have shaped American popular culture, Can’t Find My Way Home: America In the Great Stoned Age, 1945 - 2000 (Simon & Schuster), then turned the book into The Drug Years, an award-winning multi-part documentary series in 2006 that became one of the most successful in the history of VH1. This and another series on the sexual revolution called Sex—The Revolution, a co-production of VH1 and Sundance in which Torgoff also appeared as a principal commentator, established him as a recognized television personality and authority on music and American pop culture, after which he was invited to lecture at Brown University and other colleges.
Torgoff’s previous book, American Fool: The Roots and Improbable Rise of John ‘Cougar’ Mellencamp (St Martin’s Press, 1986), awarded the Deems Taylor Prize by ASCAP for its excellence, brought him deep into the pop music culture as MTV and music video were transforming its landscape. Torgoff rode the music video revolution all through the 1980s, his work spanning musical cultures and including some of the biggest recording artists in the world: Prince, Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel, Luther Vandross, Teddy Penderdgrass, Aerosmith, among many others. Torgoff would go on to work for CNN as the New York-based producer covering music for WorldBeat. During this time he also helped develop the EPK (electronic press kit) as a tool commonly used by the music industry to promote artists.
In 1987, Torgoff collaborated with Academy-award winning documentarians Alan and Susan Raymond to make Elvis ’56, a film about one year in Presley’s life that is now considered a classic, and has been cited by Bob Dylan and Paul McCartney as one of their favorite documentaries. His interest in Presley and rock and roll goes back to his first book, Elvis: We Love You Tender (Delacorte,/Dell 1980), a true account of Presley’s decline and death, which brought him inside one of the biggest stories in the world. It was this book that brought Torgoff to the attention of artist Andy Warhol, who invited him to write for his magazine, Interview. As a Contributing Editor of that magazine from 1979 until Warhol’s death in 1987, Torgoff honed his skills as an interviewer and wrote cover stories on Jack Nicholson, Yoko Ono and many others, operating at the nexus of celebrity culture.
Torgoff has been an innovator since his first job as a young Associate Editor at Grosset & Dunlap in the 1970s when he helped pioneer what became a whole trend in trade book publishing of illustrated “scrapbooks” about music and pop culture.
Today his experience and expertise equip him to navigate and command all of the fast-moving currents of the present media climate, applying his understanding of American pop culture to projects that include articles, books, film, television, lectures, multimedia events, and advertising/promotion.