Technical GRAMMY Award: Roger Linn

Musician/producer Todd Rundgren on 2011 Technical GRAMMY Award recipient Roger Linn and the revolution started by his rhythmical box
  • Roger Linn
February 01, 2011 -- 9:49 am PST
By Todd Rundgren / GRAMMY.com

In addition to the GRAMMY Awards, The Recording Academy presents Special Merit Awards recognizing contributions of significance to the recording field, including the Lifetime Achievement Award, Trustees Award and Technical GRAMMY Award. Each year, The Academy invites friends and colleagues of Special Merit Awards recipients to pay tribute to the honorees' career accomplishments, while also adding colorful anecdotes and personal accounts. In the days leading up to the 53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards, GRAMMY.com will present the tributes to the 12 Special Merit Awards recipients for 2011.

My first LinnDrum fascinated and frightened me. I had been pretty unimpressed with the state of programmed drums, the tinny analogue sounds that propelled the disco music that was glutting the airwaves in the late '70s. Yet, here was a device that, in the proper hands, could be a suitable replacement for a real drummer — that most troublesome of all instruments and instrumentalists!

What frightened me was the ease with which I and my contemporaries could perform such a substitution. Soon a recording would not be considered radio-worthy without the fat, precise sound that the LinnDrum provided. We were moving into a world where few could tell the difference between live and programmed performances.

Innovation was nothing new to Roger Linn. In 1979 he introduced the LM-1 Drum Computer, the world's first programmable sampled-sound drum machine. The drum sounds created by his machines were heard on countless recordings, including my own, and those by Prince, Madonna, Michael Jackson, and Peter Gabriel, to name a few.

He has since continued to develop cutting-edge products, including the Linn 9000 and more recently a tool for guitarists, AdrenaLinn. Appropriately, he is a fine guitarist and songwriter himself, having co-written songs for Eric Clapton and Mary Chapin Carpenter, and toured with Leon Russell. Based in Berkeley, Calif., he and his wife Ingrid operate Roger Linn Design out of their home and will no doubt continue to churn out high-tech products designed for musicians.

Of course, not telling the difference between a machine and a real person is moot today. The revolution started by Roger Linn and his rhythmical box is complete. Drummers have not disappeared, but you can't listen to the radio for five minutes without hearing a drummer who may not actually be a drummer.

(A singer/songwriter, musician and producer, Todd Rundgren's hits include "Hello It's Me," "I Saw The Light" and "Can We Still Be Friends?" With a career spanning more than four decades, Rundgren was also a member of Nazz, formed the progressive rock band Utopia, and produced for artists such as Badfinger, Grand Funk Railroad and the New York Dolls. He produced, arranged, engineered, and played on Meat Loaf's 1977 album, Bat Out Of Hell, which has sold more than 14 million copies.)

Presented by vote of The Recording Academy's National Trustees, the Technical GRAMMY Award recognizes individuals and companies that have made contributions of outstanding technical significance to the field of recording. The Technical GRAMMY was first awarded in 1994. To view a complete list of Technical GRAMMY Award recipients, click here.

Lifetime Achievement Award: Julie Andrews, Roy Haynes, Juilliard String Quartet, The Kingston Trio, Dolly Parton, Ramones, George Beverly Shea
Trustees Award: Al Bell, Wilma Cozart Fine, Bruce Lundvall
Technical GRAMMY Award: Waves Audio Ltd.

 

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