Fito Páez Looks Back On His Influential Albums, Talks Love, Astrology & Inspiration Ahead Of 2021 GRAMMY Awards Show

Fito Páez


Fito Páez Looks Back On His Influential Albums, Talks Love, Astrology & Inspiration Ahead Of 2021 GRAMMY Awards Show

In celebration of the influential father of Latin rock's current GRAMMY nomination for 'La Conquista del Espacio,' Fito Páez revisits his vast catalog and reveals intimate moments behind some of his albums

GRAMMYs/Feb 27, 2021 - 02:11 am

Lea la versión en español aquí.

How is Fito Páez, one of the fathers of rock 'n' roll en Español, largely spending the pandemic? In short, working, because he hasn't stopped. When the thought of a break comes up on a phone call from a rural part of Argentina where he is working on his forthcoming 25th album, he responds with a laugh. "Why?" he asks. "As long as you have fun and occupy your time in this strange period of a pandemic, the choice is a very healthy one."

It might be that work ethic that has led to the influential Argentine singer/songwriter releasing more than 30 albums—in 2013 alone, he released three of those albums. In more than four decades of making music, he's sold more than 3.5 million albums. His latest album La Conquista del Espacio is a rock/pop album with extraordinary orchestral arrangements and a hint of cumbia. On an artistic note, the album was an opportunity for him to reinvent his sound.

The long, curly-haired boy from Rosario who began as a keyboardist in the Argentinian Trova Rosarina rock scene in the '80s is now gone. Now, Páez is a full-on Latin pop legend, a status he attained by experimenting with pop, synth and Latin sounds, among others.

La Conquista del Espacio is a testament to that, and in 2020, the album earned him a Latin GRAMMY for Best Pop/Rock Song for "La Canción De Las Bestias." Last year he also saw his second GRAMMY nomination, the first in 20 years, for Best Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative Album.

In celebration of the GRAMMY nomination and career trajectory, Páez revisited several albums in his catalog for and spoke about the growth, meaning and influence behind them. 

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Let's start with Del 63, your first solo album. Why did you go solo?

I started as a part of the Juan Carlos Baglietto group and a movement called La Trova Rosarina. I was Juan Carlos's pianist when he decided to come to Buenos Aires from Rosario. From the age of 15, while I was playing with Juan Carlos, I also had my solo groups: Staff, El Banquete, and Juan's group came pretty quickly. Juan's [group] growing up was a very important popular phenomenon in Argentina.

At one point, one of the producers at EMI Odeón in those years in Argentina, Jorge Fortunato, proposed that I have a solo career. I thought he was kidding me. I was 19 years old—imagine! So I accepted immediately, of course.

There I met Charly García. I knew his work, not him personally—and that generated a great shock to me, because Charly calls me to play keyboards on a live show for his Clics Modernos album. There, I received an injection of music, modernity, tradition—of serious work.

Del 63, I think is a failed album in many ways, but on the other hand it's the album that triggered me to do what I really wanted to do, which at that time was to be a lot like Charly and experiment with sounds that I hadn't worked with in a studio. The drums played in a certain way, or the bass, or the guitar—in short, I began to explore other worlds.

In "Del Sesenta Y Tres," you sing about politics and the Vietnam War. You also name Antonio Carlos Jobim who you were listening to. When you hear this song years later, what do you think?

It gives me a very fond feeling, and I think that all of that is [still] real, in some way it is a [feeling of] luck, of here I am. I'm here, I'm Fito Páez, I'm from Rosario, I'm from Argentina, I have all of those influences in my life. It is a fundamental song. 

Yes, they had killed [John] Lennon recently. My father put Jobim on when I was a child and Antonio Carlos became one of my [most influential] musicians over the years.

Yes, they were assassinating Kennedy, but the song was in the throes. On the other hand, do not forget that the Alfonsinist spring was coming— as it was called, democracy in Argentina after so many years of military dictatorship. 

That's why it makes that final call: "We are going to try to improve the world, because the banquet is ready," it goes [in the song]. So there is something nostalgic, there is something affirming, of, "Here we are," there is also some positivity towards the future.

I noticed that on the album cover you have long hair. Is that not your thing anymore?

[Laughs.] No, I cut it in '96. Actually, my hair was long, because—I wanted to have it that way, because they said no, Jennifer, do you understand? They wouldn't let me have it that way. When I was able to, I said, "Well, now I'm going to keep it long and I'm not cutting it anymore." 

Until life put me in my place after spending countless money on shampoo and rinse cream. Cecilia Roth, who was my wife during those years, also came to untangle my life. That also made me cut my hair.

In '87, Ciudad de Pobres Corazones came out, which was a personally heavy album for you. You made it after the murder of grandmother and your aunt. What does it mean to you to be able to make music to process difficult moments like these?

It's everything. In a sense, music is a language. What happens to you in life becomes the laboratory where you will carry out a large part of your work. Music in that sense has been an instrument, a universe, I would say. 

It helped me be stronger. When you count or try to address different situations, you are somehow draining your interior out and music helps you manifest it. There is a permanent liberation, in that sense, in whatever the theme you are telling. There is always something that happens inside you that you need to be able to manifest.

How do you think you grew as a songwriter on this album?

There is something happening there, there is a break there, because somehow there is a [sense of], "I don't care about anything. I don't care about anything." 

There is some of that [nature], but at the same time in the domain of language. For example, on that album, there is a song called "Ambar Violeta," which is a piece by Mozart, it could be on one hand. 

On the other hand, then there is experimenting with Latin techno, like "A las Piedras de Belén." Prince was also coming into my life in those years, in a way there was also a strong influence from that musician of excellence, Mr. [Rogers] Nelson. Also, the fact of having been a secondary victim of a tragedy, that also forces you to have to be open, to get into terrain that you do not know and not be afraid of it, to try to express it in a way that is not known to you.

Tracks like "Fuga en Tabú," for example, which has that unusual ending, is a kind of techno reggae that ends with chords like Joe Zawinul from Weather Report. Anyway, there are a number of mixtures there where I felt that I took a step forward as a musician, rather than as a songwriter.

Years pass, we get to '92, and you release El Amor Después del Amor. According to Apple Music, you sold more than 600,000 copies and this album was a sold out show, that is, this album was very successful. How did that make you feel?

Yes, that album sold one and a half million copies in Argentina.

That's huge. How did you feel?

It was crazy, frankly. It was a moment of [my] maximum popularity. It was [during the time of] El Amor Después del Amor and Circo Beat, which went out immediately after. It was a very bright time, to be honest, because all the things I used to do, I couldn't do again. You start to live more locked up; you lose a bit of contact with what your daily life was on the street.

I would tell you that I enjoyed it a lot in the sense that there, when I get to that album, I'm already mature enough as a musician and as an artist to be able to offer those two albums and in that sense have the freedom and curiosity to continue studying music. 

All that paid off in the width of the albums and in the playback at each concert of those albums. In my personal life, I was suddenly transformed as if I were a president. They followed me, I was like Carolina de Monaco [laughs]. 

What was the inspiration behind El Amor Después del Amor?

I was ending a long relationship of several years with Fabiana Cantilo, a great Argentine singer/songwriter, and, today, a soul sister. I was starting a relationship with Cecilia Roth, with whom I had a son, Martín, who is now 21. We were together for 11 years. I was initiating a bond that was going to be very important, I knew it.

It seems to me that this emotional transfer of that situation was the engine that started everything. And, of course, having a person like Cecelia around was also very important. [She] lit the fuse. 

When there is a muse, many seduction mechanisms are activated. Luckily, musical or artistic ones are also activated. That seems to me was the inspiration for the whole album, plus the obvious growth that I was having as a musician, as an artist. 

There was more information, it was better processed, I had a much more relaxed management of the studio, I was already almost 28 years old and I had already produced a lot of records. All of that was distilled into the album.

El Amor Después del Amor brought you success, but in 2000, you won your first Latin GRAMMY for best song for "Al Lado del Camino." Was this the biggest of your career at that point?

No. I don't believe much in highlights; there are no such things. But the important thing that the album brought me was meeting Phil Ramone

He was one of the greatest music producers in the history of music and was a dear friend. [He was a] teacher to me in the sense that I could see how a producer really works, what is the task one should perform. I saw his generous heart, his extramusical research on what he had to record. 

Let's remember that for that album with Phil, we spent almost a month and a half before entering the studio. Me going to New York, meeting his family and him doing the same in Buenos Aires.

He was an extremely curious and warm man. He wanted to know what Peronism was, for example, which is a very difficult thing to explain still because, for Argentines, it remains a mystery. I wanted to know things so I could later make decisions about my music. The most beautiful thing about him that I take, first, is that he was a charming and loving person. 

[When I think of him,] I remember how a producer does the task of the producer. The only thing a producer has to do, and I saw that clearly with him, is to prepare the ground for the artist to be free on the battlefield, absolutely free. 

Phil taught me freedom, in a sense. That is my memory of Phil: as one of the great people I crossed paths with in music.

Fast forward to 2007: Rodolfo came out and you won another Latin GRAMMY. On this album, you're only accompanied by piano. Why?

Yes. I'll tell you, I was finishing the editing of a film, my second feature film, which is a comedy, set in Rosario in the '80s, at full speed.

You have seen a '80s movie—imaginative, toxic, with a lot of humor. We were all young. There was a lot of music—an explosion of color. The filming and the entire adventure of the film had been a very strong experience.

As a Piscean, when I was finishing editing that explosion of music, lights and emotions, I would come home after long editing sessions, apart from having composed the music too. I would sit at the piano and play, which seemed to calm me somehow. 

Rather than calm down, I would tell you that it turned me on again, but ... [The music would come out] a bit like in El Amor Después del Amor. When it would come out like [the music from] ¿De quién es el Portaligas? I got into this adventure of Rodolfo, which was very austere and in black and white, while the film was an '80s epic at full speed and in color. 

I think my Piscean character has always allowed me to move [between] these extremes.

You believe in astrology?

It amuses me a lot. Of course, I have read Linda Goodman's books, I recommend them to all who have not read them. She is an excellent astrologer from New York.

You started with rock, but have obviously experimented with other sounds like on this album. Did you ever mind creating outside of rock?

No, but you know why? Because you don't leave these things. 

I was born in a lower-middle-class house. My father was a municipal official. At that time, in the '60s ,'70s, let's say, my father, who was a worker, listened to  the popular music of the world [and it] was very colorful. 

In my house, you could hear [Aníbal] Troilo's tango orchestras ... you would hear Mercedes Sosa, you would hear Burt Bacharach, you would hear Antonio Carlos Jobim, you would hear jazz, Oscar Peterson, Friedrich Gulda. You heard everything.

My father also injected that freedom into me. Rock for me is a genre that I enjoy a lot, in fact now I'm making an album that is very rock, but it's not a central element in my music. I also remember when I traveled to Cuba, I had the possibility to cover what Cuban son [music] was like, learn the key, learn to play it. 

When I traveled to Peru and got to know how the Peruvian marinera moved through Lucho Gonzales, who had been one of the guitarists of Chabuca Granda, I learned about Brazilian music—how the choro, samba moved. The Northeast's music, Jobim's harmonies, João Gilberto's drive, the guitar. 

When you go to Chile and learn the cueca,  I was able to appreciate and get to know it very closely because of Álvaro Henríquez, who is a great rock artist.

I am a very curious man, I like music in general, I have no prejudice in that sense. So I would tell you that rock, first of all, it's a very difficult word to define, a very difficult genre because, as Bowie said, "Rock is a culture." It is a sense for which Oscar Wilde, a Victorian writer, is also rock born in another era. Mozart would also be rock in a sense. [Laughs.] So more than a musical genre, as our dear David said, it's a culture.

Now, I want to talk about Yo te Amo, which is your 20th album. When you started your solo career, did you imagine reaching album 20?

No, I didn't even think I'd get to the corner of my house, imagine that. I just think I am one of the lucky people that music has allowed into their home. Of course that is not free, it is not easy, it takes work, tenacity and desire for knowledge. In short, it's a study of many things.

On your website, I read that the album is "Dedicated to all who live in and with love." What do you mean by that?

It is a Buddhist or Gandhian way of dialogue, an album dedicated to those who live for and in love. Love as a beneficent force, outside of the concept of romance. Love is solidarity, love as piety, love as humor, love as an embrace, as a company, all of these things make us better people.

We all need love now...

We always need it, what happens is that we do not realize that human beings are very vain and very conceited. We think that we have everything under control or even, many at the moment, we give ourselves the luxury, even to be cynical or ironic. They are all attitudes of a fly tickling an elephant.

When death comes, it will stand in front of you and erase you with one finger. That's why I say in the process of life, the important thing is a hug, a look, closeness, the dust. I don't know how to say it, if we understand how to have [meaningful] sex. Being in contact with each other, of course without losing the moments of intimacy and solitude that are very important. In the drive-by shooting that is life, we just have to hug and accompany each other.

Is love your favorite topic to write about?

I believe that love is what interests me the most, which does not mean that I am not a fan of [Carl von] Clausewitz and know the treatises on war or the art of war, which interests me a lot too, but I think that love is the most elusive, mysterious and indefinable matter. Utopian matters are always the ones that have caught my attention the most.

Yo te Amo was launched in 2013, but it was not the only album you released that year, you also released two others. Were you tired at the end of 2013?

Of course, that's when El Sacrificio came out. El Sacrificio was an album where I could collect all the cursed songs that had been left out of other albums plus [add] some new ones, which were also cursed. 

Because I realized that when I tried to put any of those songs on an album, I surely thought that the listener was going to jump to another song, or was it possible that they could possibly want to hear the story of a murder every day. 

I built a house for all those damn songs and there they were fine. They love each other; they repel and accompany each other. It is an album that I like very much, Sacrificio, I also released Dreaming Rosario in parallel, which is an album where the virtues of love are exalted. 

There is a song dedicated to my son. It is a romantic album.

In 2014, Rock and Roll Revolution arrived, a tribute to Charly García. What does he mean to you?

As it says on the album, he is my moral reserve, he is an artist who was lucky enough to cross paths with, meet him, now be his family, but I never forget the artist he is, because when you spend a lot of time around someone, you forget that they are a genius or that they are someone superior, really in that sense. 

I have these two dimensions with Charly. He is a fundamental person in my life, he has been by my side during the most important moments of my life, the good and the bad, he is a person of lucidity, I have only known a few in the world. He is a bright, intelligent, audacious, rogue man. 

A composer [like him] appears once every 1,000 years. I would tell you that he is one of our Mozarts of the 20th and 21st centuries, and I would tell you that he is a central artist to think about when you think of rock in Spanish, music in Spanish [in general] and a little in global music … He is in a musical dimension; he is in contact with a lot of different universes.

I want to finally talk about your most recent album, La Conquista del Espacio. What inspired the title?

That is very difficult to answer because I believe unconsciousness is always really activated. When one works, intuition also.

Later, we began to see with Max Rompo, who was the designer of the album art, that La Conquista del Espacio was something that was everywhere—from the conquest of the miniskirt in '78, women's rights or when a flower is released from a stem, or how inside of a cell, protons and neutrons are fighting to occupy space. 

Also, the conquest of the embrace, the subject in a moment. I think that La Conquista del Espacio is something that got out of hand, it ended up being very comprehensive, like El Amor Después del Amor.

Which part of the production process did you enjoy the most on this album?

I would tell you everything. Now I understood, because the first part of it was, as it always is, even now, about 10, 12 days in a small fishing village in Brazil. 

I went with Diego Olivero and a friend, and there I developed the little cells I had to make the songs. It was actually very nice because things don't always appear so clearly and so genuinely, sometimes the work takes a long time. Simply, here I emptied the cells that I had on my phone, which I have been recording throughout the year, and when we started to develop it, in 12 days we had the album composed—lyrics and music. 

The whole process, Jennifer, I would tell you, was totally joyful, a rare, one in an album-making idea because complications always appear at some point and they didn't exist here.

What have you learned from yourself as a creator after all these years of making music?

That it is very necessary to move from [one] place [to another]. And that it is very easy to get comfortable with what you know, but that has something to do with what's inside oneself. 

I remember a poet friend, Fernando Noy, who used to tell me, "When I like myself the most and enjoy myself the most, is when I don't know myself." [Laughs.] I think this person wrote that and I always thought the same as he did, I always felt the same.

On the other hand, knowing there are inevitable consequences of the development of a style over the years, which you cannot avoid, but what I can do is incorporate different forms of an album. For example, now, for the first time, there are six songs that we are recording in which I did not play a single piano. 

It is the first time that there will be no piano on an album of mine, possibly.


I say those things to encourage those things.

You already won a Latin GRAMMY; now, you are nominated for a GRAMMY, I know it's your birthday the day before the GRAMMYs. What would happen if you win a GRAMMYs for La Conquista del Espacio?

Let's see. The first thing I'm going to tell you is that I'm going to feel great gratitude to the great music school that is the United States of America, with whom and where I have been trained, among so many types of music that I have learned and enhanced. 

When I am nominated, I feel the same, but like when you arrive at a high music house, such as Brazil, Mexico or Cuba, when they accept you or in Chile, Peru or Uruguay, who give you a pat on the back and say "Welcome, now you are part of the family." 

I believe his award is very important in my life because they are things that complete you, I have a great intimate relationship with the music of the United States of America. There is something like a full-circle moment that would occur with that award that would give a lot of satisfaction, a lot of pleasure.

But, I tell you, I'm already very happy and having a feeling of fullness with this nomination.

Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: Lido Pimienta Summoned All Her Creative & Artistic Powers On ‘Miss Colombia’

Jorge Drexler Wins Song Of The Year Latin GRAMMY For "Telefonía"

Jorge Drexler

Photo: John Parra/Getty Images


Jorge Drexler Wins Song Of The Year Latin GRAMMY For "Telefonía"

The artist from Uruguay adds to his win tally with Latin music's highest songwriting award

GRAMMYs/Nov 16, 2018 - 08:16 am

The winner of the Song Of The Year at the 19th Annual Latin GRAMMY Awards is Jorge Drexler for his song "Telefonía," adding songwriting's top honor to his growing list of accolades.

From Uruguay, Drexler is a previous winner of two Latin GRAMMY Awards as well as a previous GRAMMY nominee. Drexler's composition "Telefonía" was also nominated for Record Of The Year. His album Salvavidas De Hielo was also nominated for Album Of The Year and won for Best Singer-Songwriter Album at the Premiere ceremony.

Drexler has earned five other GRAMMY nominations in his career, including a nod for Salvavidas De Hielo for Best Latin, Urban Or Alternative Album at the 60th GRAMMY Awards.

Other competitors in the Song Of The Year category included established greats and newcomers from across the Spanish-speaking world, such as newcomer from Mexico, El David Aguilar, who received four Latin GRAMMY nominations this year. In addition to this nomination for writing "Embrujo," the singer-songwriter was also up for Best New Artist and his album Siguiente was nominated for both Album Of The Year and Best Singer-Songwriter Album. From Puerto Rico, Kany García is a previous winner of two Latin GRAMMY Awards and a previous GRAMMY nominee. García's song "Para Siempre" was also nominated for Record Of The Year & her album Soy Yo was nominated for Album Of The Year and Best Singer-Songwriter Album.

Chilean star Mon Laferte was also nominated with her co-writer/nominee Manú Jalil for their song "Antes De Ti." At last year's Latin GRAMMY Awards, she won Best Alternative Song. for "Amárrame." Another nominee "Danza De Gardenias" was written by Mexican star Natalia Lafourcade and her co-writer/nominee David Aguilar Dorantes. Its performance featuring Los Macorinos was also nominated for Record Of The Year. Her album Musas, Vol. 2 was nominated for Album Of The Year and won for Best Folk Album at the Premiere ceremony. A GRAMMY winner and previous recipient of eight Latin GRAMMY Awards, Lafourcade's Musas, Vol. 1 won the Latin GRAMMY Award for Best Folk Album last year.

"Bailar Contigo" was performed and co-written by Colombian ensemble Monsieur Periné, a previous Latin GRAMMY Award winner and GRAMMY nominee. The group was also nominated for Record Of The Year and their album Encanto Tropical was nominated for Album Of The Year. Their co-writer Mauricio Rengifo is a previous Latin GRAMMY Award winner and GRAMMY nominee who was also nominated a second time in this category, twice for Best Tropical Song as well as for Producer of the Year. Argentine rocker Fito Páez was also nominated this year for "Tu Vida Mi Vida." A previous winner of five Latin GRAMMY Awards and a GRAMMY nominee, Páez's composition won Best Rock Song at the premiere ceremony.

Bringing a flamenco folklore style very much her own, Spanish sensation Rosalía and her hit "Malamente" won Best Alternative Song at the premiere ceremony and were also up for Record Of The Year, Best Urban Fusion/Performance, and Best Short Form Music Video. Her co-writers/nominees were Antón Alvarez Alfaro & Pablo Diaz-Reixa. "La Puerta Violeta" has brought wider recognition for Spanish artist Rozalén's powerful talent both as a writer and performer. Her album Cuando El Río Suena… was nominated for Album Of The Year.

"Robarte Un Beso" was one of this year's feel-good anthems, bringing together Colombia's Carlos Vives and Sebastian Yatra. A previous winner of ten Latin GRAMMY Awards and two GRAMMY Awards, Vives won Best Contemporary Tropical Album at the Premiere ceremony for his album Vives. Fellow Colombian Yatra received his first Latin GRAMMY nomination last year. Their co-writers/nominees were Mauricio Rengifo and Andrés Torres, nominated together this year for Producer Of The Year as well as additional songwriting nominations in Best Tropical Song and another nomination for Rengifo in the Song Of The Year category for his work with Monsieur Periné. Torres won at the 16th Latin GRAMMY Awards for engineering and both men shared in "Despacito"'s Record Of The Year Latin GRAMMY win at last year's awards, as the track's producers.


P&E Wing Honors T Bone Burnett

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 04:22 am

By Dan Daley

The Producers & Engineers Wing of The Recording Academy has more than 6,000 members, and it seemed like most of them were there for the P&E Wing's 10th anniversary celebration, held at the Village recording studios in West Hollywood, Calif., on Feb. 9.

The P&E Wing's annual GRAMMY Week event honors the work of all of music's "engine room" ― the creatively technical personalities that help shape artists' visions, and each year chooses one in particular to shine the spotlight on. This year's honor, at an event entitled Shaken Rattled & Rolled, went to T Bone Burnett, whose production work for artists such as Elvis Costello, Jakob Dylan, Elton John and Leon Russell, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, k.d. lang, John Mellencamp, Ralph Stanley, and countless others, as well as on soundtracks for landmark film projects including Crazy Heart, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Big Lebowski, and Walk The Line, has helped redefine the Americana genre.

Burnett took the stage at the Village to tremendous applause and pointed out that digital technology has done as much damage to the sound and recording art of music as it has done to the economics of its distribution. Citing the "insane fact that in the past few years movies and games have put out higher quality audio than music has," Burnett gave the audience an impassioned prediction that "we are approaching the end of an era when music is free."

The audience cheered Burnett's words. They understood when he described the LP ― a set of carefully created and sequenced works of aural art ― as an American contribution to the arts on par with a fine wine from France. And all agreed with Burnett's observation that "guitars are analog, drums are analog, voices are analog…we are analog."

The presentation closed with songs performed by the Secret Sisters, Laura and Lydia Rogers, whose self-titled debut record was executive produced by Burnett.

There were plenty of P&E Wing members gathered there that could attest to the artistry Burnett ascribed to analog technology and the music culture it fostered. They included renowned producers and engineers such as Phil Ramone (Billy Joel), Ed Cherney (Bonnie Raitt), Al Schmitt (Steely Dan), and Eddie Kramer (Jimi Hendrix). But it was Robert Margouleff, who won a GRAMMY in 1973 for Best Engineered Recording — Non-Classical for Stevie Wonder's Innvervisions, who most succinctly summed up Burnett's career: "It's been one long, wonderful album."

(To view more photos from Shaken Rattled & Rolled and additional GRAMMY Week events, click here.)



The Producer Of The Year Category Turns 40

Pharrell Williams bids to join select company as the GRAMMYs prepares to crown the 40th Producer Of The Year recipient

GRAMMYs/Feb 28, 2016 - 08:41 am

Pharrell Williams could be headed for the GRAMMY history book this year. Williams is nominated for Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical, an award he previously won in 2003 as a member of the Neptunes (with Chad Hugo). If Williams wins this year, he'll become only the third producer to win in this category both on his own and with a partner. The first two were Quincy Jones (he won twice on his own and once with Michael Jackson) and Babyface (he won three times on his own and once with L.A. Reid).

This year's other nominees are Rob Cavallo, Dr. Luke, Ariel Rechtshaid, and Jeff Tweedy. This is the fifth nomination in this category for Cavallo (who won in 1998), the third for Williams and the second for Dr. Luke. Rechtshaid and Tweedy are first-time nominees in the category.

The 56th GRAMMY Awards will mark the 40th year that the award for Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical will be presented. That milestone is a good excuse to look back at the winners and nominees in the category through the years.

The Recording Academy added the Producer Of The Year category in 1974, 16 years after the inaugural GRAMMY Awards. The nominees that first year were Thom Bell, Rick Hall (who will receive a Recording Academy Trustees Award this year), Billy Sherrill, Lenny Waronker, and Stevie Wonder. On March 1, 1975, Bell was announced as the first winner.

Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical is now one of the night’s most anticipated awards. (The Non-Classical portion of the title was added in 1980 to distinguish the category from Producer Of The Year, Classical, which was introduced in 1979.)

Babyface has won Producer Of The Year four times, more than anyone else. He and Reid won as a team in 1992, when their credits included the Boomerang soundtrack and hits by TLC and Bobby Brown. Babyface won on his own three years in a row, from 1995 through 1997. (He’s the only producer to win the award in back-to-back years — much less score a “three-peat.”)

Jones and David Foster are close behind, with three Producer Of The Year victories each. Peter Asher, Arif Mardin and Rick Rubin have each won the award twice.

Jones was the first two-time winner in the category and also the first three-time winner.

Foster, who was born in Victoria, British Columbia, has won the award more times than any other producer who was born outside of the U.S.

Mardin holds the record for the longest span of Producer Of The Year awards: 27 years. He first won in 1975 (when his credits included albums by Bee Gees and Average White Band) and again in 2002 (the year of Norah Jones’ Come Away With Me).

Mardin set another record in 2002 as the oldest Producer Of The Year winner. He was 70 at the time.

The youngest winners of Producer Of The Year to date are Steve Lukather and Steve Porcaro of Toto and Michael Jackson. All were just 25 when they won.

Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis have received the most nominations for Producer Of The Year: 11. Jones and Foster are runners-up, with eight each. Babyface is next in line, with six.

Nigel Godrich, best known for his work with Radiohead, holds the bittersweet distinction of the most nominations without a win: five.

Wonder, who won in 1976, was the first self-produced artist to win. Many others have followed his lead, including last year’s winner, Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys.

Four self-produced artists have won in tandem with creative partners: Bee Gees (with Albhy Galuten and Karl Richardson), Jackson (with Jones), Lionel Richie (with James Anthony Carmichael) and Phil Collins (with Hugh Padgham).

Other twosomes to have won are Jam & Lewis, who had played together in the Time; Babyface & Reid, who had played together in the Deele; Brian Eno & Daniel Lanois; and the Neptunes (Williams and Hugo), who are members of N.E.R.D.

Producer Of The Year winners have diverse backgrounds. Before becoming a top producer, Asher played a part in the British Invasion as one-half of Peter And Gordon. Foster and the members of Toto were in-demand studio musicians. Jones was a top arranger and Hollywood film scorer.

Prior to winning Producer Of The Year, many recipients had previously won GRAMMYs in other capacities. Phil Ramone and Neil Dorfsman had won as engineers; Steve Lillywhite and Brendan O’Brien as engineer/mixers; and Larry Butler, Toto’s David Paich and Narada Michael Walden as songwriters.

Producer Of The Year winners have come from all over the world. Asher, Collins & Padgham, Eno, Lillywhite, Mark Ronson, and Paul Epworth were born in England. Foster and Lanois were born in Canada; Bell in Jamaica; Mardin in Turkey; Bee Gees in Isle of Man; Ramone in South Africa; and Walter Afanasieff in Brazil.

Six women have been nominated for Producer Of The Year (though, as yet, no woman has taken home the award). Janet Jackson was the first woman to be nominated. Jackson, Jam and Lewis were cited as a team in 1989 — the year of her hit-laden album, Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814.

In a similar fashion, Mariah Carey and Afanasieff were nominated as a team in 1991 — the year of her sophomore album, Emotions.

Paula Cole was the first woman to make the Producer Of The Year finals on her own. She was nominated in 1997, the year of her breakthrough album, This Fire.

In 1998, for the first (and, so far, only) time, the Producer Of The Year finals included two women: Sheryl Crow and Lauryn Hill. Crow was nominated for her work on The Globe Sessions; Hill for her work on The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill and Aretha Franklin's "A Rose Is Still A Rose."

The sixth and most recent instance of a woman receiving a Producer Of The Year nomination came in 2003 when the writing/producing team the Matrix, which includes Lauren Christy, were nominated. The team's work that year included tracks by Liz Phair and Hilary Duff.

There have been two ties for Producer Of The Year. In 1984 Foster tied with Carmichael & Richie. In 1992 Babyface & Reid tied with Eno & Lanois. 

Sadly, seven past winners for Producer Of The Year are no longer with us: Larry Butler, Maurice Gibb, Robin Gibb, Jackson, Mardin, Jeff Porcaro, and Ramone.

As noted above, The Recording Academy added the Producer Of The Year, Classical category in 1979. James Mallinson was the first winner. Robert Woods and Steven Epstein are tied for the most wins in the category with seven each. There have been three female winners: Judith Sherman (three times), Joanna Nickrenz (twice) and Elaine L. Martone (once).

View a complete list of winners for the Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical and Classical categories.

(Paul Grein, a veteran music journalist, writes for Yahoo Music.)

A Special Affair
George Jones, Diana Ross and Glen Campbell

Photo: Mark Sullivan/


A Special Affair

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 04:22 am

By Paul Grein

The Recording Academy's Special Merit Awards Ceremony was especially heartfelt this year, a reflection on the mortality of several of the honorees. Glen Campbell, who received a Lifetime Achievement Award, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2011. Three of the recipients died last year: Gil Scott-Heron, who received a Lifetime Achievement Award; Steve Jobs, who received a Trustees Award; and engineer Roger Nichols, who received a Technical GRAMMY Award.

"Hallelujah!" exclaimed Diana Ross, striking a personal note in accepting her Lifetime Achievement Award. "Lifetime Achievement?" she mused. "To me, my lifetime achievement are my children," pointing to her three daughters, two sons and first grandson, who joined her onstage.

Campbell let his wife, Kimberly, offer most of his thank yous, but he did single out the songwriter who gave him "By The Time I Get To Phoenix," "Wichita Lineman" and "Galveston." "I probably wouldn't be here today if it weren't for Jimmy Webb," he said. Campbell was an in-demand Los Angeles session guitarist before he became a country crossover star. In 1969 he became the first country artist to win a GRAMMY for Album Of The Year.

The Lifetime Achievement Award to the Allman Brothers Band was accepted by eight past or present members of the legendary Southern rock group: Gregg Allman, Oteil Burbridge, Warren Haynes, Jaimoe, Chuck Leavell, Mark Quinones, and Butch and Derek Trucks, as well as representatives on behalf of the late Duane Allman and Berry Oakley.

Jaimoe told a funny story about how he came to join the band when he was just 16. "When I met Duane, I was on my way to New York to become a jazz musician and starve to death," he said. "But Charles Otis, who was a friend of mine, always said, 'If you wanna make some money, go play with the white boys.' So I forgot about going to become a jazz musician."

Derek Trucks noted that when the band was founded, "it took balls of steel" to have an interracial rock playing "the chitlin' circuit." Butch Trucks said simply, "Thank you, Duane, for giving me my life."

Scott-Heron was cited for his social commentary and influential role in the development of rap and hip-hop. He died last May, and his Lifetime Achievement Award was accepted by his four children. Daughter Raquiyah Kelly Heron said she thought her father "would be tickled pink" by the award. But she added, "I'm kind of glad it's not televised. He would have probably said something and gotten CBS fined."

George Jones was cited for a career that started with his first album in 1957. Jones has won two GRAMMYs, including one for the all-time country classic "He Stopped Loving Her Today." Like several of the other honorees, Jones primarily thanked his fans "for making my career successful."

The Memphis Horns (trumpeter Wayne Jackson and tenor saxophonist Andrew Love) played on countless hits on Stax Records and Hi Records in the '60s and '70s, as well as sessions for everyone from Neil Diamond to Bonnie Raitt. "It's been a dance of love between me and that trumpet," said Jackson, who singled out Jerry Wexler for his help.

Antonio Carlos Jobim spearheaded the bossa nova sound that swept the globe in the '60s. His Lifetime Achievement Award was accepted by his widow, Ana. Jobim died in 1994.

This marks the second time Jobs' work has been honored by The Academy. He was a co-founder of Apple Computer Inc., which received a Technical GRAMMY Award in 2002. His continuing contributions led to this personal acknowledgement for the visionary, who died last October. Jobs' Trustees Award was accepted by Eddy Cue, Apple's senior vice president of Internet software and services, who made note of Jobs' love of music.

"Music shaped his life and made him who he was," said Cue. "When he introduced the iPod in 2001, people asked, 'Why are you doing this?' He said, 'We love music and it's always good to do something you love.'"

Dave Bartholomew is a musician, bandleader, composer and arranger, best known for his work with Fats Domino, who received a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1987. Bartholomew wasn't able to accept his Trustees Award in person, so it was accepted by his two sons.

Engineer Rudy Van Gelder has recorded thousands of jazz sessions, including classic albums for Blue Note Records by Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane. His Trustees Award was accepted by pianist/composer Cecilia Coleman.

Audio engineer Nichols won six GRAMMYs for his work with Steely Dan and a seventh for his work with John Denver. He also worked a span of artists including Crosby, Stills & Nash to Cher. His Technical GRAMMY Award was accepted by his widow and two daughters.

The German-based company Celemony also received a Technical GRAMMY Award. The company specializes in the digital audio pitch-correction software known as Melodyne. Founded in 2000, the company has just 20 employees, which prompted co-founder Peter Neubacker, to say, "Our company is the smallest ever to win a Technical GRAMMY — and also the strangest."