Seventeen-time GRAMMY-winning and two-time Latin GRAMMY-winning producer/engineer Al Schmitt is featured in the latest installment of GRAMMY Living History Moments, a new series showcasing excerpts from the GRAMMY Foundation's Living Histories archive. Schmitt discusses topics including his favorite artist collaborations, first recording experience, recording technology in the earlier part of his career, the components of a great record, and more.
"Everything on the record is perfect," said Schmitt when asked what makes a great record. "The drums sounds great, the bass sounds perfect, this is right, that's right…but there is no emotion to the record at all. I hear records that are done in garages that have all the emotion in the world and they become big hits because of it. People buy records because it makes them feel a certain way. A perfect record doesn't necessarily touch anybody."
Throughout his career, Schmitt has worked with a variety of artists spanning different genres, including George Benson, Nat King Cole, Natalie Cole, Sam Cooke, Eddie Fisher, Jefferson Airplane, Diana Krall, Henry Mancini, Steely Dan, and Toto. A native of New York, Schmitt got his start in the music industry as a teenager working under renowned producer/engineer Tom Dowd. After a stint as a staff producer at RCA Records, he went independent in 1966. He won his first GRAMMY Award in 1962 for Best Engineering Contribution — Other Than Novelty for Mancini's "Hatari." In 2004 he won an impressive five GRAMMYs for his work as engineer on Ray Charles' Genius Loves Company album. His most recent GRAMMY win came in 2008 for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album for Natalie Cole's Still Unforgettable. A founding Recording Academy member, Schmitt has served on The Academy's Board of Trustees and was awarded a Trustees Award in 2006.
The GRAMMY Foundation's Living Histories program preserves on videotape the life stories of key recording industry professionals and visionaries who helped create the history of recorded sound. This footage is utilized by the GRAMMY Foundation and its partner organizations to develop educational video programs that tell the unique stories of our musical history through the unfiltered voices of its makers. To date, the Foundation has completed more than 200 interviews with artists, producers, executives and technology pioneers.
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