A Silent Influence

In today's music, there are some producers who are superstars. Timbaland obviously comes to mind. Will.i.am. Dr. Dre. Stargate. The Neptunes. Having these artists produce your song is a marketable event, and fans would be interested in your work just because these people were involved. But back when Phil Ramone was first beginning to leave his mark, it wasn't like that. When I mentioned to a few music friends that Phil Ramone had died on Saturday, there wasn't a universal grasp on who the man was or what he did. I had a little explaining to do.

I grew up listening to Paul Simon and Billy Joel, the two artists that I most closely associate with Phil Ramone. His work with Paul Simon in the 1970s produced some of the best career-defining work of Simon's career, including "Loves Me Like A Rock," "Something So Right," "Still Crazy After All These Years," "I Do It For Your Love," "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover," and "Slip Slidin' Away." Still Crazy After All These Years won the Grammy for Album Of The Year in 1976, a full decade before Simon's much-celebrated Graceland era, and its the music from this period that I have the most childhood memories about.

For Billy Joel, the addition of Phil Ramone to his team was arguably the decision that would change Billy Joel into BILLY FREAKIN' JOEL...if you get my drift. Joel was an up-and-coming artist working to making a name for himself and achieving some moderate success before Ramone signed on to produce the album which would become larger than life: The Stranger. After that, you had 52nd Street (Grammy winner for Album of the Year), Glass Houses, Songs In The Attic, The Nylon Curtain, An Innocent Man, and The Bridge. In all they collaborated on 7 albums that contain so many Billy Joel classics that it may just boggle your mind.

And so when I was growing up listening to this music, I had no idea what a producer was, what he did, or that in these cases his name was Phil Ramone. Chances are you may not have known either, but now you do. (Learn more here) It seems that in addition to the technical innovations that he was well known for, he was like a silent influence for me, because I didn't even know he was there. But he was there, and the sounds I heard on those records have forever influenced my ear.

To celebrate and remember, each day this week in the 11AM hour I will be posting out my #PhilRamoneSongOfTheDay. Connect with me on Twitter to check it out.

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    © STEVE SCHULTZ