Producer Phil Ramone passed away on March 30, at the age of 79. With credits ranging from Frank Sinatra to Billy Joel, Tony Bennet to Barbra Streisand, Bob Dylan to Paul Simon, Luciano Pavarotti to Brian Setzer, and with 14 Grammy Awards to his credit, Phil Ramone was truly a legendary figure in the music world.
Born in South Africa in 1934, Ramone grew up in Brooklyn. He was a classical violin prodigy who began playing at age 3, and began playing concerts at age 7. When he was 10 he performed for Queen Elizabeth. He earned a scholarship to Julliard, but quickly found himself drawn to jazz and pop music. He began to learn his craft as an apprentice at J.A.C. Recording.
He cofounded A&R Recording in Manhattan in 1958, where he engineered for such artists as Leslie Gore, John Coltrane, and Quincy Jones. He was also the sound man when Marilyn Monroe sang “Happy Birthday” to President John F. Kennedy in 1962, and managed the sound for White House events during Kennedy’s administration.
In 1965 he won the first of his Grammys for Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto’s Getz/Gilberto. He worked on a long string of highly successful albums, including Billy Joel’s The Stranger and 52nd Street (the first album ever released on compact disc), Paul Simon’s Still Crazy After All These Years, Ray Charles’ Genius Loves Company, Frank Sintra’s Duets, and many, many more. He also won an Emmy Award in 1973 for Duke Ellington…We Love You Madly.
His 50-year career was the source of endless anecdotes. At one point in 1983, one of his productions, “Tell Her About It” by Billy Joel, knocked another of his productions, “Maniac” by Michael Sembello, out of the number one slot on the Hot 100 chart. He also recorded three acts simultaneously in three rooms at A&R Studios — Billy Joel, Paul Simon, and Stephanie Mills, working from session to session 24 hours a day.