Phil Ramone at the Songwriters Hall of Fame induction ceremony on June 18, 2009
January 5, 1934|
|Origin||Brooklyn, New York City, New York, U.S.|
|Died||March 30, 2013
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Record producer, recording engineer, music executive, composer, songwriter, performer|
|Labels||A & R Recording, Columbia, Warner Bros., Verve, Hear Music, Casablanca|
|Website||www.philramone.com (Last version, archived at the Internet Archive.)|
Philip "Phil" Ramone (January 5, 1934 - March 30, 2013) was a South African-born American recording engineer, record producer, violinist and composer, who in 1958 co-founded A & R Recording, Inc., a recording studio with business partner Jack Arnold at 112 West 48th Street, New York, upstairs from the famous musicians' watering hole, Jim & Andy's, and several doors east of Manny's Music. The success of the original A&R Recording allowed it to expand into several studios and a record production company. He was described by Billboard as "legendary", and the BBC as a "CD pioneer".
Ramone was born in South Africa and grew up in Brooklyn, New York, USA. As a child in South Africa, Ramone was a musical prodigy, beginning to play the violin at age three and performing for Princess Elizabeth at age ten. In the late 1940s he trained as a classical violinist at the Juilliard School, where one of his classmates was Phil Woods. Ramone opened his own recording studio before he was 20. He became a naturalized citizen of the United States on December 14, 1953.
In 1959, Ramone established an independent recording studio A & R Recording (the initials were derived from the last initials of Ramone and his then-business partner Jack Arnold). Later the partnership which owned the studio consisted of Brooks Arthur owning half while Ramone, Donald Frey and Arthur Downs Ward (1922-2002) owned the other fifty percent.
In the studio he quickly gained a reputation as a good sound engineer and music producer, in particular for his use of innovative technology. Among the performers whose music Ramone produced are Burt Bacharach, the Band, Bono, Laura Branigan, Ray Charles, Karen Carpenter, Chicago, Peter Cincotti, Natalie Cole, Bob Dylan, Sheena Easton, Melissa Errico, Gloria Estefan, Jon Secada, Aretha Franklin, Billy Joel, Elton John, Quincy Jones, Patricia Kaas, B.B. King, Julian Lennon, Shelby Lynne, Madonna, Barry Manilow, Richard Marx, Barbra Streisand, Celine Dion, Paul McCartney, George Michael, Liza Minnelli, Anne Murray, Olivia Newton-John, Sinéad O'Connor, Fito Páez, Luciano Pavarotti (including the Pavarotti and Friends Charity Concerts in Modena, Italy), Peter, Paul and Mary, June Pointer, André Previn, Jennifer Rush, Diane Schuur, Michael Sembello, Carly Simon, Paul Simon, Frank Sinatra, Phoebe Snow, Dusty Springfield, Rod Stewart, James Taylor, the Guess Who, Dionne Warwick, Stevie Wonder and Nikki Yanofsky. He is also credited with having recorded Marilyn Monroe's intoxicating version of "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" to John F. Kennedy.
In 1972, management of A & R included Robert Gerics (general manager and studio manager), Nick Diminno (studio manager), and Irving Joel (chief engineer). The studios were located at 799 7th Avenue and 322 West 48th Street.
His early work in producing and engineering was with jazz artists, working on John Coltrane records and acting as engineer for the landmark Getz/Gilberto album in 1964, for which he won his first Grammy. He transitioned during the 1960s to working with folk-rock, pop-rock, and R&B acts such as Peter, Paul and Mary, James Taylor, Aretha Franklin and Bob Dylan, first primarily as an engineer, and later as a producer. He won his first production Grammy for his work on 1975's Still Crazy After All These Years by Paul Simon. He produced Billy Joel's 1977 album The Stranger and began a fruitful collaboration with Joel producing a string of hit albums throughout the rest of the 1970s and 1980s. In 1993, he produced Duets, Frank Sinatra's comeback album, a commercial hit that peaked at #2 on the Billboard Album Chart. During the rest of the 1990s, Ramone moved from production work to his primary role as an industry executive, serving as chairman of The Recording Academy, though he would still be involved in some studio work including several Broadway cast recordings, as well as helping produce, with Quincy Jones, the televised A Tribute to Brian Wilson in 2001.
Ramone was a founding member of META (the Music & Engineering Technology Alliance).
October 1, 2017, marked the thirty-fifth anniversary of the world's first commercially marketed compact disc. On that date in 1982, A & R Recording released a digital compact disc version of Billy Joel's 52nd Street in Japan, alongside Sony's CD player CDP-101.
Ramone introduced optical surround sound for movies. His book, Making Records: The Scenes Behind the Music, written with Chuck Granata, was released on October 9, 2007. Also in October 2007, Ramone produced a limited engagement performance of Richard Vetere's Be My Love: The Mario Lanza Story. The play was directed by Charles Messina and co-produced by Sonny Grosso. It premiered at The Tilles Center in Greenvale, New York.
In addition to producing music, Ramone had numerous concert, film, Broadway and television productions to his credit that include A Star is Born, Walkabout, August Rush, Beyond the Sea, Flashdance, Ghostbusters, Midnight Cowboy, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Passion, Seussical, Simon and Garfunkel: The Concert In Central Park, Songwriters Hall of Fame Awards, The Score, VH1/BBC Party at the Palace: Queen's Jubilee Concert and The Good Thief. A champion of music educational programs, Ramone served on the boards of the National Mentoring Partnership and Berklee College of Music.
On July 8, 2008, Columbia records released The Stranger 30th Anniversary, which features interviews with Ramone. This box set includes a remastered version of the 1977 Billy Joel album, The Stranger by Ramone. The following summer, Ramone produced Gershwin Across America, a tribute album to the music of George and Ira Gershwin. The album features Jewel, Jason Mraz, Darius Rucker, and Paul Simon among others. In 2011, Ramone worked with George Michael, during his 2011 Symphonica Tour. Also in 2011, Ramone produced the songs "You Were Meant for Me" and "I'm Coming Back" on Lalah Hathaway's album Where It All Begins.
From about 1999 to 2002, Joseph D'Ambrosio had been general manager of Phil Ramone, Inc. (PRI), the music production company of Phil Ramone founded as a New York entity in 1973. D'Ambrosio was also Ramone's personal manager. In 2002, D'Ambrosio founded Joe D'Ambrosio Management, Inc., a New York corporation. In 1997, D'Ambrosio became head of N2K Encoded Music, a smooth jazz label founded that same year by Dave Grusin and Larry Rosen, founders of GRP Records, and Phil Ramone.
Ramone was hospitalized in late February 2013 with an aortic aneurysm. He died of complications from surgery related to the aortic aneurysm. on March 30, 2013, at New York Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan at the age of 79.
Ramone was awarded honorary degrees by: