Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain”? Ringo Starr’s “Photograph”? Leo Sayer’s “When I Need You”? How about Rod Stewart’s resurgence over five volumes of American song classics? What do they all have in common? Richard Perry. The producer of most of Carly and Ringo’s hits, not to mention the Pointer Sisters’ huge run in the late 70s and early 80s. Add in Barbra Streisand’s one rock hit, “Stoney End,” as well as a classic Fats Domino album called “Fats Is Back.”
Perry has made a lot of hits– Julio Iglesias and Willie Nelson’s “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before,” DeBarge’s “Rhythm of the Night,” Art Garfunkel’s “All I Know,” Ray Charles’s top 10 version of “A Song for You”– but I like a lot of the album cuts he did for these famous artists. Check out Harry Nilsson’s “Lottery Song” from the album Son of Schmilsson– Richard had already had a monster hit with Nilsson Schmilsson and three big hits including “Without You,” “Coconut,” and “Jump into the Fire.”
Perry is also the only producer who can say he staged a quasi Beatles reunion. It happened on the “Ringo” album in 1972 when John Lennon, George Harrison, and Paul McCartney all wrote songs for what would become a landmark collection. Every Beatles fan has the “Ringo” album as a cherished landmark. It was also Perry who convinced Mick Jagger to put backing vocals on Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain.” It was quite a coup in 1972, and the record has become one of Simon’s and Perry’s lasting classics for 42 years.
Perry will get his Trustees Award tomorrow in L.A. along with famed songwriters Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, and radio legend George Wein. He’s also hard at work on his memoirs, full of juicy anecdotes about all the artists he’s put on the charts, and his long history as top of the pops. I’ve read some of it and it’s both funny and intimate. Some smart publisher should be scooping it up soon!
Will he divulge his secret recipe for the rich cushiony sound of all his hits? I don’t think so. A couple of years ago I was listening to Richard record Carly Simon singing a cover of “So Into You” for an album that may come out one day. I sort of haphazardly asked, when I heard his trademark production, “How does he do that?” Simon replied: “Oh don’t you know? He–…” Perry cut her right off. “Don’t tell him!” I had to laugh. These are trademark secrets. (And we thought we had no secrets.)
Congratulations, Richard. Here’s a video of my favorite Perry production, one of the very best radio singles ever produced. The dynamics of Harry Nilsson’s “Without You” are so warm and dramatic, and musical, nothing stands up to them even to this day:
Cover photo of Richard with long time significant other, Jane Fonda.