March 30, 2013 – Philip “Phil” Ramone was born January 5th 1934 in South Africa but grew up in Brooklyn, New York. As a child in South Africa, he 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, and opened his own recording studio before he was 20. He became a naturalized citizen of the USA on December 14th 1953.
A very talented recording engineer, record producer, violinist and composer, he co-founded A & R Recording, Inc. a recording studio with business partner Jack Arnold in 1958.
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 quickly gained a reputation as a talented sound engineer and music producer, in particular for his use of innovative technology. Among the performers whose music he produced are Clay Aiken, Burt Bacharach, The Band, Bono, Laura Branigan, Ray Charles, Karen Carpenter, Chicago, Peter Cincotti, Natalie Cole, Bob Dylan, Sheena Easton, Melissa Errico, Gloria Estefan, Aretha Franklin, Billy Joel, Elton John, Quincy Jones, Patricia Kaas, B.B. King, Julian Lennon, Shelby Lynne, Madonna, Barry Manilow, Richard Marx, Paul McCartney, George Michael, Liza Minnelli, Anne Murray, Olivia Newton-John, Sinéad O’Connor, Fito Páez, Luciano Pavarotti, Peter, Paul and Mary, June Pointer, André Previn, Diane Schuur, Michael Sembello, Carly Simon, Paul Simon, Frank Sinatra, Rod Stewart, James Taylor, The Guess Who, Dionne Warwick, Stevie Wonder and Nikki Yanofsky.
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.
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.
He is also credited with having recorded Marilyn Monroe’s intoxicated version of “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” to John F. Kennedy.
Phil was hospitalized in late February 2013, on March 30, 2013, he died of complications from surgery related to a aortic aneurysm at age 79.