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AL SCHMITT,
UBER MENSCH

Al Schmitt, a brilliant engineer/producer whose career spanned seven decades—and a truly wonderful guy who was beloved by the countless musicians and studio people he worked with—died on 4/26 at the age of 91.

Schmitt, who won more Grammys—23—than any other engineer or mixer, in 2015 became the first and only engineer to be honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; it’s located just outside the Capitol Tower, where he’d been working regularly since 1976.

Schmitt was inducted into the TEC Awards Hall of Fame in 1997; in 2006, he received the Grammy Trustees Lifetime Achievement Award and in 2014, he received an honorary doctorate from the Berklee College of Music.

After serving in the Navy, the 19-year-old New York City native landed an apprenticeship at Manhattan’s Apex Recording Studios, where he was mentored by the legendary Tom Dowd. His first session was for Duke Ellington.

Schmitt relocated to L.A. in the late 1950s and began working at Radio Recorders in Hollywood. He moved over to RCA in the early ‘60s, where he became the studio’s first staff engineer. He engineered Elvis Presley’s first post-army film, G.I. Blues, in 1960 and won his first Grammy for recording Henry Mancini’s soundtrack to the 1962 John Wayne film Hatari! During his RCA years, he also worked with Cal Tjader, Al Hirt, Rosemary Clooney and Sam Cooke.

In 1966, Schmitt went independent and began a career roll. After producing the Jefferson Airplane’s After Bathing at Baxter’s, Crown of Creation, Bless Its Pointed Little Head and Volunteers, he added a number of landmark LPs to his massive discography. Among them were Jackson Browne’s For Everyman and Late for the Sky, Neil Young’s On the Beach, George Benson’s Breezin’ (one of his numerous collaborations with Tommy LiPuma), Steely Dan’s Aja, both of Frank Sinatra’s Duets albums, Ray CharlesGenius Loves Company and Toto’s IV, which won six Grammys in 1983.

More recently, Al worked extensively with Diana Krall, winning three Grammys; engineered and mixed Paul McCartney’s Kisses on the Bottom and Live Kisses, picking up a Grammy for each; and collaborated with Bob Dylan for the first time when he engineered 2015’s Shadows in the Night.

Over the decades, he also recorded Sammy Davis Jr., Natalie Cole, Thelonious Monk, Tony Bennett, Madonna, Michael Jackson and many others.

Schmitt’s autobiography, The Magic Behind the Music, with a foreword by McCartney, was published in 2018.

“Al Schmitt’s wife Lisa, his five children, eight grandchildren and five great grandchildren would like his friends and extended recording industry family to know that he passed away Monday afternoon, April 26,” reads a message on Al’s Facebook page. “The world has lost a much-loved and respected extraordinary individual, who led an extraordinary life. The most honored and awarded recording producer/engineer of all time, his parting words at any speaking engagement were, ‘Please be kind to all living things.’

“Loved and admired by his recording colleagues, and by the countless artists he worked with…Al will be sorely missed. He was a man who loved deeply, and the friendships, love and admiration he received in return enriched his life and truly mattered to him. A light has dimmed in the world, but we all learned so much from him in his time on earth, and are so very grateful to have known him.”

Amen

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

My dear oldest friend Al. RIP —Jeff Greenberg, The Village
 
 
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