Music producer Phil Ramone dies at 79

Phil Ramone in New York in 1997.

Ken Weingart/Getty Images

Phil Ramone in New York in 1997.

Music producer Phil Ramone, who worked with top artists to create some of the most unforgettable music of our era, has died. He was 79.

Once dubbed "The Pope of Pop," Ramone was hospitalized in late February with an aortic aneurysm, Billboard reports. His son, Matt, confirmed the music producer's death Saturday morning.

Ramone was one of the most prolific music producers of his time, as NPR's Sami Yenigun says:

"The list of musicians Phil Ramone produced reads like a who's who of 20th century musical icons. Paul McCartney Tony Bennett, Barbara Streisand, Paul Simon, Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Burt Bacharach, Bono, Ray Charles, Andre Previn, Renee Fleming and BB King.

"In a career that spanned over five decades, Ramone racked up 14 Grammy awards and a technical grammy for a lifetime of innovation in the industry. He was a classical violin prodigy who got his start in the industry as a recording engineer. He went on to work in a diverse range of media, producing for film, broadway, and TV."

That's not all, the AP goes on:

"He produced three records that went on to win Grammys for album of the year — [Paul] Simon's 'Still Crazy After All These Years,' [Billy] Joel's '52nd Street' and [Ray] Charles' 'Genius Loves Company.' He was a pioneer of digital recording who produced what is regarded as the first major commercial release on compact disc, '52nd Street,' which came out on CD in 1982."

Ramone was born in South Africa and quickly demonstrated his musical chops, taking up the violin and piano at age 3. As a teenager, Ramone studied at the Juilliard School in New York, the AP reports, and by age 20 had opened his own recording studio.

His own experience as a musician and engineer gave him insight into the artists he worked with, as Billboard says:

"Asked to describe his philosophy as a producer, Ramone told Sound on Sound magazine in 2005: "I served a long time as an engineer and watched many famous producers work, and I decided on the personality that came most easily to me, which is the more relaxed; to give artists encouragement when needed.

"'Players are like prodigies, thoroughbreds,' he added. 'You have to handle them with care.' "

You can see an interview with Ramone on his history on YouTube, posted by CBS:

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported Ramone's age as 72. He was 79. 
Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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