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Pioneering Female Studio Owner Lori Burton Passes at 80

Former singer, songwriter, producer and studio owner Lori Burton has died at 80. Originally a vocalist and songwriter, Burton went on to studio manage and co-own Record Plant New York.

Lori Burton
Lori Burton

New York, NY (May 25, 2021)—Former singer, songwriter, producer and studio owner Lori Burton has died at 80. Originally making her way into the music business as a vocalist and songwriter whose tunes were recorded by the Young Rascals, Lulu and others, Burton went on to studio manage and co-own Record Plant New York with her then-husband and production partner Roy Cicala.

Born in New Haven, Connecticut in 1940, Burton began writing songs at the age of 14 in a recording studio that her father had built in the basement of their family house; it was there that her boyfriend and future-husband Cicala began his training as a recording engineer. After adopting the stage name Lori Burton (for the actor Richard Burton), she recorded the song “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah (That Boy of Mine)” for Morris Levy’s Roulette Records. It was at Roulette that she met her co-writer, Pam Sawyer.

Burton and Sawyer originally wrote the song “I Ain’t Gonna Eat My Heart Out,” hoping to have it recorded by one of the British-Invasion rock bands; Burton told the Record Plant Diaries Oral History Project: “Pam and I agreed to meet with the Rascals and I played ‘I Ain’t Gonna Eat My Heart Out’ on the piano. They loved it and they loved ‘Baby Let’s Wait’ too, so we went to A&R Studios and I got Roy to record them. The Rascals came into A&R after hours and, before you know it, they were laying down tracks for ‘Good Lovin’’ and ‘How Can I Be Sure.’ Roy recorded everything on that first album.”

Burton convinced Cicala to buy the Record Plant New York studio on 44th Street in Manhattan when it was put up for sale by Warner Communications in the early 1970s: “Roy told me one night that the studio was for sale, and so I said, ‘Roy, well then, why don’t we buy it?’ At first, he thought I was crazy. But Roy always liked a challenge, so we bought it.”

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Burton joined her husband and Record Plant client John Lennon out in Los Angeles for Lennon’s raucous “Lost Weekend” during his separation from Yoko Ono. She contributed backup vocals for many Record Plant New York sessions over the years, including work with Lennon.

Like many women of her generation, Burton retired from the music business to raise her two children, Shaun and Jade. After her divorce from Roy Cicala in 1979, the studio struggled financially and with her husband spending more time out of the country in Brazil, Burton briefly returned to the Record Plant New York as studio manager. Lennon worked there again on the night of his death, December 8, 1980.  The studio closed in 1987.

Burton is survived by her son Jade Cicala and his wife Jacqueline; her daughter Shaun Grandioso and her husband Giuseppe; and her grandchildren Sabrina, Jaden and Lianna. She was predeceased by her husband Marius Sorbello, her grandson Stuart Canales and her brother James Squeglia.