ARIF MARDIN, 1932-2006
Arif Mardin, the legendary producer/arranger whose career spanned landmark recordings from Aretha Franklin to the Bee Gees to Norah Jones, died on June 25 in New York. Mardin had been suffering from pancreatic cancer for about a year. Born in Istanbul, Turkey, Mardin graduated from Istanbul University in economics and studied at the London School of Economics. Although he was a self-professed jazz fanatic and an accomplished orchestrator/arranger, Mardin never intended to pursue a career in music. However, in 1956, meeting Dizzy Gillespie and young arranger Quincy Jones changed the course of his life. Soon after, he was the first recipient of the Quincy Jones Scholarship at the Berklee College of Music in Boston.
In 1958, Mardin and his wife, Latife, left Istanbul for Boston. After graduating in 1961, he taught at Berklee for a year and then moved to New York City. Mardin began his career at Atlantic Records in 1963 as an assistant to the legendary jazz enthusiast and founder, Nesuhi Ertegun. He rose through the ranks quickly, becoming studio manager, label house producer and arranger. In 1969, he became a VP and subsequently served as senior VP until May 2001. Mardin worked closely on many projects with founder Ahmet Ertegun and Jerry Wexler. He ranks among the 20th-century’s most important record producers, with more than 40 Gold and Platinum discs to his credit. From the Young Rascals’ 1964 Number One hit, “Good Lovin’” and Bette Midler’s 1989 Number One and Record of the Year “Wind Beneath My Wings,” to his recent work with Norah Jones (which resulted in Grammys for Record of the Year and Album of the Year in 2002), Mardin has transcended genres and contributed to many of contemporary music’s most brilliant works. He was inducted into the TEC Hall of Fame in 2005.
According to the BBC, he will be buried in his native Istanbul.
DAVE SMITH, 1950-2006
David Smith, head of engineering at Sony Music Studios in New York City, passed away at the age of 56 on June 17, 2006. Widely regarded as a top-tier technical engineer, Smith was responsible for the integration of digital and analog equipment throughout Sony’s West 54th Street complex.
“David Smith was a bridge to a time when vacuum tubes, analog tape machines and large-diaphragm condenser microphones were state of the art, yet he was more familiar with the digital realm than anyone else on the globe,” said SMS executive VP and general manager Andy Kadison. “His ability to span generations of audio technology was unsurpassed and will never be seen again. He was an invaluable asset, and Sony Studios is devastated by his passing.
Brian McKenna, SMS VP, audio operations and marketing, commented, “David had a unique ability of relating to everyone, from an entry-level engineer to a CEO. He respected and understood that each integral part of a music studio and label was similar to a piece of a microphone. He not only helped build the technical infrastructure of Sony Studios, but also was largely responsible for the type of people who worked this technology. He was a dear friend and mentor who will be missed, but never forgotten.”
Grammy Award — winning producer Bob Power, who had a room at SMS for several years, also remembered Smith as a superior engineer who treated everyone with respect. “David was hands-down the most technically competent person I’ve ever known,” Powers said. “He had a measured and even approach to people, and he listened to everyone’s opinions and ideas. David’s passing has left a monumental gaping hole, both in the mental libraries of how things really work, and more importantly, how to be a magnanimous and kind human being. Fortunately, he has left a little of that in all of us.”
Smith’s brother, Tony, told Mix that the family is in the process of setting up a scholarship in Smith’s name for young people pursuing careers in audio engineering. Mix will release details as they become available.
Check out a profile on a one-of-a-kind studio Smith helped build on page 52.