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Phil Ramone, record producer and engineer, Pope of Pop, passes away at age 79
  by: iradioal - Philadelphia, PA
started: 03/31/13 6:52 am | updated: 03/31/13 6:52 am
Phil Ramone, innovative record producer and engineer, passed away on Saturday at the age of 79 in New York. Ramone's prolific body of work with some of the biggest names of the past 50 years of music garnered him 14 grammy awards and the nickname “Pope of Pop.”

Phil Ramone was born January 5, 1934 in South Africa, but grew up in Brooklyn. His father died while he was young and his mother worked at a department store. Ramone, a childhood violin prodigy, started studying music at the age of 3 and trained at the Juilliard School. As he grew up, Ramone gravitated from his classical training toward jazz and pop. He also took more interest in helping others make the best of their music and recordings.

In 1958, he co-founded A & R Recording, a studio on West 48th Street in Manhattan. He gained a reputation as a deft engineer working on landmark pop and jazz recordings. In 1962, he worked sound as Marilyn Monroe's sung her sultry version of "Happy Birthday to You" to President John F. Kennedy. He won his first Grammy working as engineer on the iconic jazz album Getz/Gilberto by Stan Getz and João Gilberto in 1964. Other notable albums were 1977's The Stranger by Billy Joel and 1993's Duets by Frank Sinatra. Ramone has engineered and produced the biggest names in music including Burt Bacharach, The Band, Bono, Barbara Streisand, Ray Charles, Chicago, Peter Cincotti, Natalie Cole, Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Billy Joel, Elton John, Quincy Jones,B. B. King, Madonna, Barry Manilow, Paul McCartney, George Michael, Liza Minnelli, Peter Paul and Mary, Carly Simon, Paul Simon, Frank Sinatra, Rod Stewart, James Taylor, and Stevie Wonder. Ramone was also known for his work in film and Broadway productions including, “Beyond the Sea”, “Flashdance”, “Ghostbusters”, and “Midnight Cowboy.”

"What a great man, what a kind spirit, such an incredible producer," said Stevie Wonder, calling Ramone "the star of stars behind the stars." "Truly a tragic loss for us on earth but what a wonderful blessing for heaven."

As an engineer and a producer, Ramone was an innovator in the process of recording itself. He was an early adopter of digital recording techniques and digital distribution. On October 1, 1982 his A & R Recordings released a digital compact disc version of Billy Joel's 52nd Street in Japan, alongside Sony's CD player CDP-101, making it one of the first CD's ever available over 30 years ago. The recording of Frank Sinatra's Duets album in 1993 brought together many artists around the world such as Bono, Natalie Cole, and Barbara Streisand. Ramone pushed to have Sinatra's Los Angeles studio linked to others' via fiber optic cables so they could get the sessions done together remotely. No matter how he pushed the technology he still stressed that the engineer understand the music.

Phil Ramone may have shaped much of the music and the way we listen to it today, but like most producers and engineers his name was not the one in lights. That was the way he envisioned his role. Ramone believed that the people don't need to know who was behind the production of the music, only that it is good. He got his satisfaction when others in the business or artists would call and want to work with him because they understand what goes into getting the music out of the talent and onto the tape.

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