By Dan Daley
The tanned wrist leaning on the softly glowing vintage Neve 8048 console in Studio A at the Village recording studio in West Los Angeles is wrapped with a Rolex Submariner. There's a Louis Vuitton Speedy bag slouching near an AKG C 12 tube microphone, a couple of unrelated classics paired in one of music heaven's penthouses. The classic EMT plate reverb that may have been used on a Beatles recording looks as though it could have arrived in the Aston Martin DB-9 parked outside. In the right seat, of course.
This is what it looks like when the students in the AV club in high school turn out to be the brilliant technical talents behind multiple generations of incredible music artists. This is The Recording Academy's Producers & Engineers Wing GRAMMY Week gathering on Feb. 8, where the people who make the electronic and acoustical magic happen in recording studios appear a few days prior to the GRAMMY Awards, to remind the world that creativity happens on both sides of the control room glass.
The fifth annual GRAMMY Week celebration conferred a Recording Academy President's Merit Award and special honor from the P&E Wing to a particularly unique talent for his commitment to excellence and the art and craft of recorded music, Jimmy Iovine. A Brooklyn kid who came up through the ranks as a recording engineer, Iovine worked at legendary studios such as the Record Plant in New York in the mid-'70s with artists such as John Lennon and Bruce Springsteen. He went on to produce albums for U2, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Stevie Nicks, Simple Minds, Dire Straits, and Patti Smith. Iovine co-founded Interscope Records in 1990. The label became the home to GRAMMY-winning talent such as Black Eyed Peas, Lady Gaga and No Doubt, evolving into Interscope Geffen A&M Records, over which Iovine presides as chairman.
Forgoing his trademark baseball hat, Iovine donned an indie-style knit cap, while around the world millions of music lovers are wearing Beats headphones, which Iovine developed with legendary GRAMMY-winning producer Dr. Dre. Dre was in the audience, and Iovine saved a particularly emotional shout-out for him during his remarks, citing him as a seminal partner in a career that has spanned rock, pop and hip-hop, as attendees such as Nicks, Colbie and Ken Caillat, will.i.am, Alex da Kid, Peter Asher, Robbie Robertson, Dave Koz, Jimmy Jam, Sheila E., and Diddy looked on.
But Iovine also fondly acknowledged others who have influenced his career, including Springsteen producer/manager Jon Landau, who was "humble enough to take advice and big enough to share it," to Mary J. Blige, who combines "talent, singing ability and humility" that would make the music industry "a better place if everyone was like [her]." Referring to influences ranging from engineers/producers such as GRAMMY winner Elliot Scheiner and Roy Cicala, Iovine lived up to what Recording Academy President/CEO Neil Portnow described as his "freedom and creativity in the studio — not something easy to do in the corporate world."
After a piano version of last year's GRAMMY-nominated hit "Love The Way You Lie" by singer/songwriter Skylar Grey, Iovine introduced Lana Del Rey, who did a perfect rendition of her hit "Video Games" backed by piano and electric guitar. Both artists, signed to Interscope, showed that Iovine has not lost his knack for identifying artists that can move an audience.