Al Schmitt, legendary recording engineer, dead at 91

Recording engineer Al Schmitt, who won 20 Grammy Awards for his work with musical artists that included Ray Charles, Paul McCartney, Frank Sinatra and Bob Dylan, died Monday, his family said. He was 91.

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Schmitt received more Grammys for engineering than anyone else in his field, Variety reported. In 2015, Schmitt became the first music engineer-mixer to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Schmitt also recorded more than 150 gold and platinum albums, Billboard reported.

Schmitt’s family announced his death in a Facebook post. A relative, who did not want to be identified, confirmed Schmitt’s death to The Associated Press.

Al Schmitt’s wife Lisa, his five children, eight grandchildren, and five great grandchildren would like his friends and...

Posted by Al Schmitt on Tuesday, April 27, 2021

“The world has lost a much loved and respected extraordinary individual, who led an extraordinary life,” the Facebook post read. “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.’”

Schmitt won his first Grammy in 1963, according to the AP. His work cut across a wide swath of musical genres, from Henry Mancini’s “Moon River” and Sam Cooke’s “Another Saturday Night” to Steely Dan’s “Aja,” Billboard reported. He was the engineer for Natalie Cole’s “Unforgettable” album and Barbra Streisand’s “The Way We Were.”

Schmitt also worked with Neil Young, Jefferson Airplane, Jackson Browne, Madonna, Toto and Brian Wilson, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

“An ingenious producer and engineer, a 20-time Grammy winner, a Recording Academy trustees award recipient, and so much more, Al Schmitt was a true legend,” Harvey Mason Jr., chair and interim president/CEO of the Recording Academy, said in a statement. “His incredible work in the studio brought us iconic pieces of work from many artists, including Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, and Diana Krall, leaving an indelible mark on the recording industry. We are forever grateful for his contributions as a founding member of the Recording Academy’s Producers & Engineers Wing and to the art and craft of recorded music. We send our love and condolences to his family, friends and collaborators.”

Schmitt’s other credits included Sinatra’s final studio recordings, “Duets” and “Duets II,” and Charles’ final album, “Genius Loves Company,” which won Grammys in 2003 for best album and for best record, Billboard reported.

Born April 17, 1930 in Brooklyn, Schmitt served in the U.S. Navy and started apprenticing at Apex Recording Studios in New York City when he was 19, Billboard reported. It was there he began working with legendary engineer/producer Tom Dowd, eventually engineering a session for Duke Ellington and His Orchestra on his own when no one else was around.

“Al was an obvious music enthusiast,” Dowd told Billboard in 2002. “He liked a lot of records and a lot of artists — not just popular artists but the ‘bubbling under’ artists too-and was sensitive to music, whether it was jazz or gospel or blues or pop.

“He had quick hands and quick ears. They ran through the song once, maybe twice, and he had it down in his mind and in his hands and was able to fly with it right away. His endeavor, at the outset, was to capture what the artists and musicians were doing. He has an unlimited horizon.”

Schmitt was married twice and had five children, eight grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren, the AP reported.

He moved to Los Angeles in the late 1950s and became a staff engineer for RCA Records. Schmitt received his first Grammy for engineering Mancini’s “Hatari,” Variety reported.

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