Phil Ramone has died 72. The Grammy Award-winning engineer, arranger and producer whose platinum touch included recordings with Ray Charles, Billy Joel and Paul Simon, is gone.
Ramone’s son, Matt Ramone, confirmed the death. The family did not immediately release details of the death, but Matt Ramone says his father was “very loving and will be missed.”
Few in the recording industry enjoyed a more spectacular and diverse career. Ramone won 14 competitive Grammy Awards and one for lifetime achievement. Worldwide sales for his projects topped 100 million. He was at ease with rock, jazz, swing and pop, working with Frank Sinatra and Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney, Elton John and Tony Bennett, Madonna and Lou Reed.
Ramone was on hand for such classic albums as The Band’s “The Band” and Bob Dylan’s “Blood On the Tracks.” He produced three records that went on to win Grammys for album of the year — Simon’s “Still Crazy After All These Years,” Joel’s “52nd Street” and Charles’ “Genius Loves Company.”
“I always thought of Phil Ramone as the most talented guy in my band,” Joel said in a statement. “So much of my music was shaped by him and brought to fruition by him. I have lost a dear friend — and my greatest mentor.”
Ramone also 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.
He was even part of political history, advising presidential administrations on how to properly record a news conference and helping to arrange the storied 1962 party for John F. Kennedy at Madison Square Garden that featured Marilyn Monroe crooning “Happy Birthday.”
He thrived whether producing music for the stereo, television, film or the stage. He won an Emmy for a TV special about Duke Ellington, a Grammy for the soundtrack to the Broadway musical “Promises, Promises” and a Grammy for the soundtrack to “Flashdance.”
He had uncanny instincts and made an art out of the “Duets” concept, pairing Sinatra with Bono, Luther Vandross and other younger artists, Bennett with McCartney and Barbra Streisand, and Charles with Bonnie Raitt and Van Morrison. In Ramone’s memoir, “Making Records,” he recalled persuading a hesitant Sinatra to re-record some of his signature songs.