Phil Ramone, producer who won many Grammys

Posted: April 01, 2013

NEW YORK - Phil Ramone, 79, the masterful Grammy Award-winning engineer, arranger, and producer whose platinum touch included recordings with Ray Charles, Billy Joel, and Paul Simon, has died, his family said Saturday.

Mr. Ramone's son, Matt Ramone, confirmed the death. The family did not immediately release details of the death, but Matt Ramone said his father was "very loving and will be missed."

Few in the recording industry enjoyed a more spectacular and diverse career. Mr. 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.

One of the biggest names not to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Mr. 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."

Fascinated by the mechanics of the studio, Mr. Ramone 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 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.

A native of South Africa, Mr. Ramone seemed born to make music. He had learned violin by age 3 and was trained at the Juilliard School in New York. He might well have enjoyed a traditional concert career, but he was drawn as a teenager to the popular music he secretly listened to on the radio.

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