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Phil Ramone, Famed Record Producer of Paul Simon, Billy Joel, Tony Bennett, Dies

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: