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Recording Engineer Donald C. Hahn Passes at 81

Don Hahn, whose engineering work could be heard on everything from "We Are The World" to Star Trek, died October 10 at the age of 81.

Don Hahn
Don Hahn

Las Vegas, NV (October 16, 2020)—A lifelong engineer who recorded everyone from Frank Sinatra to Whitney Houston over the course of a decades-long career, Don Hahn died on October 10, 2020 at the age of 81. Hahn’s work has been heard the world over, from Star Trek episodes to renowned recordings like the charity single “We Are The World” by USA for Africa.

Born February 22, 1939 in Toronto, Canada, Hahn was raised in Montreal, and studied music at The Radio College of Canada. Moving to New York in the late 1950s, he wound up at the legendary A&R Recording Studios working with the likes of the facility’s co-owner, producer Phil Ramone. While working there, one of his first projects was to engineer The Band’s now-classic debut album, Music from Big Pink, eventually becoming a VP at the celebrated facility.

By the mid-1970s, California was calling, as Hahn went to work with Herb Alpert at A&M Studios. As Hahn related to Mix Magazine in 2015, “I moved to L.A. to work with Herb in February, 1977. I drove across the country with my wife and three kids in a ’60s Cadillac. I started at A&M as senior mixer, then I became director of operations, and then I became vice president and general manager.” That trajectory was only helped further by his engineering Alpert’s comeback single, “Rise,” which went Gold and won the 1979 Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance.

BAE Audio Founder Cameron “Brent” Averill, 1949-2020

Across his career, Hahn worked with artists such as Frank Sinatra, Count Basie, Quincy Jones, Peggy Lee, Harry Belafonte, Peter Paul & Mary, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Barbra Streisand, Ray Charles, Paul Simon, Judy Collins, Billy Joel, Paul Anka, Stephane Grappelli, Loretta Lynn, Willie Nelson, Whitney Houston, B.B. King, Woody Herman, Hugh Masekela, Dionne Warwick, Chet Atkins, The Brothers Johnson, Ricky Martin, Liza Minelli, George Benson, Paul Winter, Shirley Bassey, Dizzy Gillespie, David Sanborn, Bernadette Peters, Chick Corea, Barry Manilow and Dave Grusin, among many others. Hahn also moved into recording for film and television, capturing orchestras for shows like Star Trek: The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager.

Hahn is survived by his wife and childhood sweetheart, Dianne Sebis Hahn; their three children, Dina (Fenton), Darryl and Derek Hahn; grandchildren Dagny and Jack Fenton, Sebastian, Sawyer, and Blake Hahn; and sister Joyce Hahn.