Home Music Phil Ramone, Famed Record Producer of Paul Simon, Billy Joel, Tony Bennett,...

Exclusive UPDATE: Billy Joel says:

“I always thought of Phil Ramone as the most talented guy in my band. He was the guy that no one ever ever saw onstage.
He was with me as long as any of the musicians I ever played with – longer than most. 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.The music world lost a giant today.”

Earlier: Heartbreaking: my friend, the friend of so many in the music business, has died at age 79. Phil had been in a New York hospital for the last few weeks, recovering from an aortic aneurysm. It’s just tragic. Phil produced the great music by Paul Simon, Billy Joel, and Tony Bennett– all of whom had been keeping in touch with Phil’s family constantly over the last few weeks.

Phil had 14 Grammy awards– and not enough frankly. Just in the last two years he’d produced Tony Bennett’s “Duets II” and “Viva Duets,” as well as Paul Simon’s critically acclaimed “So Beautiful, So What” and was finishing up a new album with George Michael.

To say Phil was a musical genius, a gentleman, the sweetest and nicest guy–it’s all not enough. For years he’s been producing the annual Songwriters Hall of Fame show and it’s been such a great experience. This past winter, right before he became ill, Phil was honored by the Salvation Army for all of work in the last few years. He was so proud of organizing their kids’ orchestra. He was beaming when they played at the Marriott Marquis that night. And he was so thrilled that Aretha Franklin came to honor him as well.

All I can think of this afternoon is Phil in the studio recording the “Duets II” album in the summer of 2011. I came into see him, and it he was drenched in sweat. It was at least 100 degrees outside, and Aretha had asked that the air conditioning be turned off while she and Tony Bennett recorded “How Do You Keep the Music Playing.” Phil was wearing a light blue dress shirt, and all of it was wet by degrees. I said, “Phil are you all right?” He looked at me with that big smile. “Do ya see what’s going on in there?” he pointed to Aretha and Tony on other side of the glass. “I’m great. Hot. But great.”

Phil’s Grammys:

  • 2006 Producer, Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album, Tony Bennett Duets: An American Classic
  • 2005 Producer, Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album, Tony Bennett The Art of Romance
  • 2004 Producer, Album of the Year, Ray Charles Genius Loves Company
  • 2004 Producer, Best Surround Sound Album, Ray Charles Genius Loves Company
  • 2004 Technical Grammy, for contributions of outstanding technical significance to the recording field.
  • 2002 Producer – Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album Playin’ With My Friends: Bennett Sings The Blues
  • 1994 Producer – Best Musical Show Album, Passion
  • 1983 Composer – Best Instrumental Composition Written for a Motion Picture or for Television Flashdance
  • 1980 Producer of the Year – Non-Classical
  • 1979 Producer, Album of the Year, 52nd Street
  • 1978 Producer, Record of the Year, Just The Way You Are
  • 1975 Producer, Album of the Year, Still Crazy After All These Years
  • 1969 Producer, Best Musical Show Album, Promises, Promises
  • 1964 Engineer, Best Engineered Recording (non- classical) Getz/Gilberto

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Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.
40 replies to this post
  1. Wow…sorry to see all the asshole comments on here. People have NO idea how to show respect, even in a basic human way. Having said that, the artistic community truly lost a giant today. RIP Phil. Thank you for all the great music!

  2. While everyone had a favorite Ramone (like a favorite Beatle), Phil was more in the shadows like the article stated., and not as accessible. Johnny drew crowds by being violent with his incredible downward strumming on the guitar, Dee Dee was the “cute” one, and Joey was the real leader and romantic.Boy don’t we miss ’em all? Long live all music by the Ramones!

  3. @ Aldo Bender . . . he’s dead now. He can’t read your text message. Get real. You should have thanked him when he was alive, if you knew him. If you didn’t know him, well, it doesn’t matter now does it? (rhetorical)

  4. “Still Crazy” and Phil..two of my all time favorites…those great
    A&R years seem like just yesterday. Why do so many of these good
    guys have to die so young?

  5. Phil made it easy for guys like me to program great artists and great radio stations. His break through’s rivaled Phil Spector. I ‘m just proud to have been programming so many great radio stations when this giant was producing great songs and albums. If you doubt it listen to Billy Joel ‘Just the way you Are’.

  6. When I was 19 Phil came to my 8 track studio in Hollywood (PROGRAM STUDIOS) accompanied by a very young Brenda Carlisle. (I was recording the GERMS and Brenda was the drummer [Dottie Danger])

    Phil had borrowed a RCA 44 Ribbon Microphone from Bumps Blackwell (this was the mike that Bumps used to record Little Richard’s Tutti Frutti) and brought it to the studio for me to use to record DARBY CRASH’s lead vocals.

    Phil gave me with a tremendous amount of professional advice and blessed me with his incredible production/engineering experience.


  7. It’s obvious – to create a song you have to think of it as a body. The composter and lyrics person are the brains – next is the person with the vocal abilities – other facets of putting together the instruments, promotion, etc… as a musical presentation, it takes alllllllll the other parts. We – the listeners – we are just ‘the ears’. But according to those who do the truly creative portion, PHIL RAMONE was the HEART of all the musical pieces with which he was associated.

  8. As a studio guitarist, singer and as a record producer, I worked with Phil and at his A&R recording studios many times…., he was a fine person and a great talent. I actually thought he was a lot older than 72. Just a few months ago, I met his sister while I was performing a show and sent my fondest regards to her brother Phil. Very sorry to hear the bad news. RIP my friend..

  9. his work with sinatra was pure genius; and his ability to wait while sinatra hesitated for over a year and then walked out at least once from the studio shows a man with the patience of an oyster buty also one who knew the right thing would happen in time.

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