Recording Academy president/CEO Neil Portnow (left) with Jimmy IovineDuring a packed gathering at The Village Recording Studios in West Los Angeles recently, The Recording Academy awarded its coveted President’s Merit Award to producer and executive Jimmy Iovine, “for his commitment to excellence and ongoing support for the art and craft of recorded music.” As a culmination of the Producers & Engineers Wing’s Fifth Grammy Week Gala, academy president/CEO Neil Portnow made the presentation to celebrate Iovine’s illustrious career; Bono and Dr. Dre served as honorary event co-chairs. The evening included live-music performance from singer/ songwriters Skylar Grey and Lana del Rey.
“This year’s honoree,” stressed Maureen Droney, senior executive director of the P&E Wing, “has a career that spans the breadth of the music industry, from his roles as an engineer, producer and co-founder of Interscope Records. Throughout all of these endeavors, he has continued to be an outspoken evangelist for high-quality audio. He shares common goals with the P&E Wing in supporting the art and craft of recorded music.”
Iovine began his career in the 1970s recording such artists as John Lennon and Bruce Springsteen, before making the transition to producer. He worked on classic albums with Dire Straits, Stevie Nicks, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Patti Smith and U2, culminating in 1990 with Iovine co-founding Interscope with Ted Field. Currently chairman of Interscope|Geffen|A&M Records, a unit of Universal Music Group, Iovine recently celebrated 20 years as the label’s head, and has shaped the careers of the Black Eyed Peas, Mary J. Blige, Dr. Dre, Eminem, Nelly Furtado, Lady Gaga, No Doubt and U2.
Capitalizing on his commitment to enhanced sound quality, in 2008, Iovine co-founded with Dr. Dre, a high-performance headphone and sound transmission company, Beats Electronics, which offers a range of consumer products. The busy record company executive passionately advocates for a reversal in the degradation of sound quality in music that, he claims, resulted from the recording industry’s transition to digital distribution.
“This is a people industry,” Iovine said, citing advice from Bruce Springsteen’s manager, Jon Landau about ‘The Big Picture.’ ‘This is not about you,’ Jon told me; ‘Go into the studio and say to Bruce: ‘I’m here to support you,’ and everything will be all right.’ Jon’s advice turned out to be correct. Everything was great and, four weeks later, Bruce asked me how my sessions with Patti Smith were coming along. I told him we lacked a song that could be a hit. Bruce said to me, ‘How about this?’ and played “Because the Night.” The rest was history with Springsteen’s song becoming Smith’s only Top 20 Hit.
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