NEW YORK – Phil Ramone, the masterful Grammy Award-winning engineer, arranger and producer whose platinum touch included recordings with Ray Charles, Billy Joel and Paul Simon, died Saturday of complications stemming from heart surgery, his family said. He was 79.
Ramone, who lived in Wilton, Conn., had elective surgery on Feb. 27 to prevent an aortic aneurysm. He later developed pneumonia and died Saturday in a New York hospital.
Few in the recording industry enjoyed a more spectacular and diverse career. Ramone won 14 competitive Grammy Awards and one for lifetime achievement. Worldwide sales for his projects topped 100 million. He was at ease with rock, jazz, swing and pop, working with Frank Sinatra, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, Elton John, Tony Bennett, Madonna and Lou Reed.
Ramone was a pioneer of digital recording who produced what is regarded as the first major commercial release on compact disc, Billy Joel’s “52nd Street,” which came out in 1982.
His credits as a producer, engineer and arranger make it hard to believe they belong to just one person: Joel’s “The Stranger,” Simon’s “There Goes Rhymin’ Simon,” concert albums by Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones, such popular singles as Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant,” Lesley Gore’s “It’s My Party” and Stan Getz and Astrud Gilberto’s “The Girl from Ipanema.”