Phil Ramone, dubbed the “Pope of Pop,” one of the music industry’s most prolific and influential music producers, passed away Saturday morning in a New York hospital. He was 79.
During his 50-year career, Ramone was nominated for a stunning 33 Grammy awards and won 14. An immigrant from South Africa, he started in music early, studying violin at Julliard and opening his first recording studio before 20 years of age. His client list was broad, diverse, and multi-generational, including such names as Frank Sinatra, Burt Bacharach, Aretha Franklin, Sheena Easton, B.B. King, The Guess Who, Bob Dylan, Luciano Pavarotti, Gloria Estafan, Bono, Paul McCartney, Paul Simon and Madonna. He lived in the tension between old and new, his musical style leaning conservatively while he aggressively promoted new technologies. He is widely believed to have released the first commercial recording on compact disc, a printing of Billy Joel’s 52nd Street released in Japan in 1982. Ramone also was instrumental in the founding of the Music and Engineering Technology Alliance (META), and also served as chairman of The Recording Academy during the 1990s.
As the Washington Post reports, Ramone had gone into the hospital for surgery on Feb. 27 as a preventative measure against an aortic aneurism. According to his son Matt, Ramone had complications from the surgery and developed pneumonia before he died at New York-Presbyterian on Saturday.
The music world responded to the news of Phil Ramone’s death with an overflow of tribute and expressions of grief and sympathy. Billy Joel referred to him as “the most talented guy in my band,” adding, “The music world lost a giant today.” Barbra Streisand declared that Ramone had “impeccable musical taste” and that he had “the most gentle way of bringing out the best in all the artists he worked with.”
Rest in peace, Mr. Ramone. You will be truly missed.