Ramone, Phil 1934-
Ramone, Phil 1934-
Born 1934. Education: Attended Juilliard School.
Office—P.O. Box 7398, Newburgh, NY 12550.
Producer, audio engineer, composer, violinist, and memoirist. Produced recordings include Original Amateur Hour 25th Anniversary Album, 1960; Getz/Gilberto, 1964; Still Crazy after All These Years, 1975; 52nd Street, 1979; An Innocent Man, 1983; White Nights: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, 1985; and Abre, 1999.
American Federation of Television & Radio Artists, American Federation of Musicians, National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (chair emeritus), Audio Engineering Society, Music & Engineering Technology Alliance (founding member), Songwriters Hall of Fame, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, National Mentoring Partnership (board member), National Academy of Popular Music (trustee), National Recording Preservation Board of the Library of Congress (trustee), Theatrical Stage Employees Union, Berklee College of Music (board member).
Grammy Award for Best Engineered Recording (Non-Classical), National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, 1964, for Getz/Gilberto; National Trustee Award, National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, 1965; Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album (producer), National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, 1969, for Promises, Promises; Emmy Award, National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, 1975, for Liza with a "Z"; Grammy Award for Album of the Year (producer), National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, 1975, for Still Crazy after All These Years; Grammy Award for Record of the Year (producer), National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, 1978, for Just the Way You Are; Grammy Award for Album of the Year (producer), National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, 1979, for 52nd Street; Grammy Award for Producer of the Year (Non-Classical), National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, 1980; Grammy Award for Composer, Best Instrumental Composition Written for a Motion Picture or for Television, National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, 1983, for Flashdance; Governors Award, National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, 1984; TEC Hall of Fame Award, The Mix Foundation for Excellence in Audio, 1992; Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album (producer), National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, 1994, for Passion; Rock Walk Award, National Mentoring Partnership, 1994; National Recognition Award, National Mentoring Partnership, 1998; New York Heroes Award, National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, 2000; National Trustees Award, National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, 2001; Grammy Award, Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album (producer), National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, 2002, for Playin' with My Friends: Bennett Sings the Blues; Grammy Award for Album of the Year (Producer), National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, 2004, for Ray Charles: Genius Loves Company; Grammy Award for Best Surround Sound Album (producer), National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, 2004, for Ray Charles Genius Loves Company; Technical Grammy, National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, 2004, for contributions of outstanding technical significance to the recording field; Grammy Award for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album (producer), National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, 2005, for Tony Bennett: The Art of Romance; Grammy Award for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album (Producer), National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, 2006, for Tony Bennett Duets: An American Classic; doctor of musicology, Berklee College of Music; doctor of humane letters, Skidmore College.
(With Charles L. Granata) Making Records: The Scenes behind the Music, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2007.
Wrote the foreword to Sessions with Sinatra: Frank Sinatra and the Art of Recording, by Charles L. Granata.
Phil Ramone is a highly regarded record producer and recording engineer. A violin prodigy at three years old, Ramone went on to study at Juilliard before abruptly pursuing an interest in recording technology and sound engineering. Ramone first distinguished himself as the recording engineer for special events at the White House during the Kennedy, Johnson, and Carter administrations. Most notably during this period, Ramone was the producer for Marilyn Monroe's iconic performance of "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" for President John F. Kennedy's televised 1962 Madison Square Garden Birthday party. This was Monroe's last significant public appearance. Ramone won his first Grammy in 1964 for the instantly recognizable bossa nova classic "The Girl from Ipanema," and went on to win more than a dozen Grammies for his work as a composer, producer, and engineer on music albums, stage productions, and film and television soundtracks. Ramone's theater work has included Chicago, Little Shop of Horrors, and Promises, Promises. He served as a producer or engineer on such films as A Star Is Born, Beyond The Sea, Flashdance, Ghostbusters, Midnight Cowboy, Jingle All the Way, and Yentl.
Often called the "the Pope of Pop," Ramone is one of the most commercially successful music producers of all time. His production work is most associated with popular music icons Paul Simon, Billy Joel, Barbara Streisand, and Frank Sinatra. Although Ramone is responsible for many distinctive recordings, such as Paul Simon's 1972 hit "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard," he is highly sought after by musicians for his unassuming manner and focus, as well as his ability to draw out the unique creativity of the performers he works with. In an interview with Paul Verna of Billboard magazine, Ramone explained: "The artist has to feel that, when the producer walks in the room, he's totally concentrated. I don't want my doctor reading and answering phone calls and having the nurse come in and babble…. Rudeness is something I just can't tolerate…. So you have to put your ego where it belongs: with the artist, the song and the crew that you put together. If you think you have a style and you perpetrate that onto people, you're hurting the very essence of their creativity. The reward of producing comes … when other artists call you and want to work with you."
Ramone is well-known within the industry as an avid supporter of new technologies, and he is notable as the first producer to embrace solid-state mixing boards, four-track recording, surround sound, and both compact disc and audio DVD technology. Ann Donahue quoted Ramone in the Hollywood Reporter as claiming: "The story of American music and the story of music technology go hand in hand." Both the first audio CD ever mass produced—Billy Joel's 52nd Street—and first pop music DVD were produced by Ramone. When asked by Saul Elbein of the Daily Texan whether he worries that technological innovations, especially developments in audio recording and editing software and electronic distribution over the Internet, threaten to drive producers into extinction, Ramone scoffed, replying: "A good producer's job is to understand what the artist is trying to say and help him or her say it, even if he's saying it on a subliminal level. And that's very hard to do; you need to spend a lot of time with the artist, build up a lot of trust. You have to be objective, in a way that people who know them have a hard time being."
Ramone's first book is the memoir Making Records: The Scenes behind the Music. Written in a relaxed, conversational style, Ramone gives a meandering tour through his distinguished career. He shares personal anecdotes about both artists he's worked with and techniques he's employed, aiming to give insight into the process of creative collaboration. Reviewers enjoyed Ramone's conversational style of writing, often comparing him to a "friend's cool father" reminiscing about the old days. Writing for the Curled Up with a Good Book Web site, Steven Rosen noted that "what really comes across is the man's sort of low-key persona." Ed Schrader, reviewing Making Records for the Baltimore City Paper Web site, called the book "down-right digestible." This sentiment was echoed in Dan Haggerty's review for the 411mania.com Web site, noting that the book is "an easy joy to flip through, each chapter a stand alone journey of the little things that played a big role in making some famous moments work." Nonetheless, this laid-back approach disappointed some reviewers. While J.B., of the J.B. Spins Web site, began his review characterizing Ramone's memoir as a "breezy read that provides some fresh insights into the artists Ramone worked with … [and] audiophiles will dig his explanations of his various techniques and improvisations in the studio," he also noted that, although he admired Ramone's genial writing and disinterest in "passing off gossip or scandal … a little sense of conflict would have given the book greater dramatic urgency." A contributor to Publishers Weekly bluntly criticized Ramone's writing, noting that the "conversational style means that certain artists are brought up again and again." Nonetheless, even this review concluded that the book was "genuinely interesting." Similarly, while some reviewers, such as Schrader, applauded Ramone's capacity to discuss "producing music casually and without the jargon you might expect from the man who reinvented the art of record- ing bands, presidents, and Frank Sinatra," several others were frustrated that Ramone did not delve into greater technical depth. Jeff Giles of the Bullz-eye.com Web site wrote that the book is "mildly entertaining overall, but hampered by stilted writing and an unwillingness to get down in the trenches with the only people who are likely going to be interested in buying the book." Despite these criticisms, reviewers generally recommended the book. J. Simpson, of the Antimusic Web site, wrote that Making Records is "definitely worth reading for anybody who has any interest in music or its production." Dave Valencia likewise wrote in the Library Journal that he enjoyed this "behind-the-scenes details of [Ramone's] work with top-notch artists" that "makes for intriguing reading."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Ramone, Phil, and Charles L. Granata, Making Records: The Scenes behind the Music, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2007.
Billboard, May, 1996, Paul Verna, "The Phil Ramone Interview"; December 20, 2003, Melinda Newman, "‘The Public, Given the Chance, Will Adapt to Something That's Good’," p. 90.
Hollywood Reporter, January 11, 2008, Ann Donahue, "‘Recording’ Chronicles Music, Tech," p. 4.
Library Journal, September 15, 2007, Dave Valencia, review of Making Records, p. 62.
Mix, October 2, 2007, Elliot Scheiner, "Phil Ramone."
Publishers Weekly, August 27, 2007, review of Making Records, p. 71.
411mania.com,http://www.411mania.com/ (December 19, 2007), Dan Haggerty, review of Making Records.
Antimusic,http://www.antimusic.com/ (July 21, 2008), J. Simpson, review of Making Records.
Baltimore City Paper,http://www.citypaper.com/ (January 30, 2008), Ed Schrader, review of Making Records.
Bullz-Eye.com,http://www.bullz-eye.com/ (July 21, 2008), Jeff Giles, review of Making Records.
CelebrityCafe.com,http://thecelebritycafe.com/ (July 21, 2008), Dominick A. Miserandino, interview with author.
Curled Up with a Good Book,http://www.curledup.com/ (July 21, 2008), Steven Rosen, review of Making Records.
Daily Texan Online,http://www.dailytexanonline.com/ (March 20, 2008), Saul Elbein, "Producer Phil Ramone Supports Villa Muse Plan."
J.B. Spins,http://jbspins.blogspot.com/ (January 8, 2008), J.B., review of Making Records.
Musician's Friend,http://www.musiciansfriend.com/ (July 21, 2008), Adam St. James, interview with author.
PBS Web site,http://www.pbs.org/ (February 13, 2007), transcript of interview on Travis Smily.
Phil Ramone Home Page,http://www.philramone.com (July 21, 2008).