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Phil Ramone dead at age 82 from surgery complications

Phil+Ramone%2C+the+pop+producer+behind+such+top-tier+talent+as+Barbra+Streisand%2C+Bob+Dylan+and+Paul+Simon%2C+died+on+Saturday%2C+March+30%2C+2013.+He+was+82.+%28Genaro+Molina%2FLos+Angeles+Times%2FMCT%29
Genaro Molina
Phil Ramone, the pop producer behind such top-tier talent as Barbra Streisand, Bob Dylan and Paul Simon, died on Saturday, March 30, 2013. He was 82. (Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times/MCT)

Phil Ramone, the veteran record producer whose work with such top-tier talent as Barbra Streisand, Bob Dylan and Paul Simon made him one of the most revered figures in the music business, is dead at age 82.

He died Saturday of complications from pneumonia stemming from surgery he had last month to prevent an aortic aneurysm, his son, Matt Ramone, told The Associated Press.

“Our industry has lost an immense talent and a true visionary,” Neil Portnow, president and chief executive of the Recording Academy, said in a statement Saturday.

The winner of 14 Grammy Awards — including one in the early 1980s for producer of the year — Ramone was known for forging close creative relationships with artists and for the sumptuous sounds of his work, which typified an era of lavish recording budgets.

He also won an Emmy Award for helping to craft a 1973 television special, “Duke Ellington … We Love You Madly.”

Among the albums Ramone produced were Simon’s “Still Crazy After All These Years” in 1975 and Billy Joel’s “52nd Street” in 1978. Both were honored with Grammys for album of the year.

Throughout his career, Ramone was an early adopter of recording technology as it evolved, and “52nd Street” is widely regarded as the first audio CD to be mass-produced.

Equally important, though, were his cozy relations with A-list artists, connections Ramone put to creative use in assembling all-star duet albums for Frank Sinatra and Bennett. In 2011 Ramone also oversaw Bennett’s Grammy-winning “Duets II,” which paired the crooner, then 85, with younger singers such as Lady Gaga and John Mayer.

He also collaborated with Sinatra, Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin, as well as on the soundtracks of such films as “Midnight Cowboy” (1969) and “Flashdance” (1983).

Ramone was born in South Africa in 1931, according to his 2007 memoir “Making Records,” but some public records give his birth year as 1934. He grew up in New York, where his musical talent — and dedication to the craft — developed at an early age.

He studied at the Juilliard School before shifting his attention from classical music to pop and jazz. As a teenager, he had nurtured the interest by secretly listening to the radio.

After apprenticing as an engineer, he co-founded a New York studio and called it A&R Recording; the “A” was for his partner, Jack Arnold.

In 1962, Ramone engineered Marilyn Monroe’s famously breathy performance of “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” at President John F. Kennedy’s televised Madison Square Garden birthday party.

By the early 1960s, he was working on a series of important jazz recordings, winning his first Grammy for Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto’s “Getz/Gilberto,” which turned “The Girl From Ipanema” into an international smash. He later moved into pop and rock, engineering and then into
producing blockbuster projects by Simon, Joel and many others.

“I always thought of Phil Ramone as the most talented guy in my band,” Joel said in a statement Saturday. “So much of my music was shaped by him and brought to fruition by him.”

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