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Recording Legend Ed Cherney, Dead at 69

By Clive Young. Grammy, Emmy and TEC Award-winning producer/engineer Ed Cherney died Monday, October 21.

Los Angeles, CA (October 22, 2019)—Grammy, Emmy and TEC Award-winning producer/engineer Ed Cherney died Monday, October 21, of an undisclosed illness. He was 69.

Over the course of a career that began in the 1970s, Cherney not only worked with the biggest names of the era and won multiple high-profile awards, but also became a driving force in the recording community, holding positions in multiple industry organizations as well as educating emerging generations of studio pros.

Born in Chicago, IL, Cherney started out as an occasional roadie for a friend’s band while in school, and was inspired by watching a studio session with them to drop plans to attend law school and instead pursue recording. After attending DeVry University, he became an apprentice at a Chicago studio, eventually becoming acquaintances with legendary engineer Bruce Swedien, who became a friend and mentor, offering advice that Cherney shared while on an AES panel in 2012: “[He told me] Run your career like a business—keep track of your hours, bill them, pay your taxes, save money when you can, because I promise you’ll hit good times and bad, and you don’t want to be a schmuck living in your car when you hit bad times.”

Additional Reads: The METAlliance Report: Where We Are by Ed Cherney.

That acquaintance served Cherney well when he moved out to Los Angeles in the late 1970s; he wound up assisting Swedien and producer Quincy Jones on Michael Jackson’s Off The Wall, going on to spend the next eight years working for them before moving on to forge his own remarkable career.

Across the next decades, Cherney worked with Iggy Pop, Bob Seger, Bette Midler, Bonnie Raitt, Wynonna, Eric Clapton, Jann Arden, Jackson Browne, Keb’ Mo, Bob Dylan, Ringo Starr and the Rolling Stones, to name only a few.

Along the way, he netted eight Grammy Award nominations, taking home half of them, for Buddy Guy’s Blues Singer (Best Traditional Blues Album, 2003); Willie Nelson’s Summertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin (Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album, 2016); Nelson’s My Way (Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album, 2019); and his first Grammy, Bonnie Raitt’s Longing in their Hearts (Best Engineered Album – Non-Classical, 1994), where he uniquely recorded and mixed three of the five albums nominated in the category that year.

Cherney’s shelf also had an Emmy on it for HBO’s 2015 film Bessie, starring Queen Latifah. It marked his first win after three other nominations for Bonnie Raitt’s Road Tested broadcast, The Rolling Stones’ Live from Madison Square Garden on HBO, and Eric Clapton’s 2004 Crossroads Guitar Festival. He also won a total of eight TEC Awards over the years, and was inducted into the TEC Hall of Fame after his first five.

In addition to his recent Grammy-winning work on Nelson’s My Way, Cherney was busy in Studio Ed, his room at The Village in Los Angeles, having recorded and mixed albums by blues supergroup The Rides, Luciana Souza and Spinal Tap’s Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer) in recent times.

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Long involved in improving the roles of engineers and producers in the music business, Cherney founded the Music Producers Guild of America—which later became the Producers & Engineers Wing of the Recording Academy—and also served as governor of the L.A. Chapter of the Recording Academy. Additionally, he was a co-founder of the METAlliance recording education collective.

Throughout his career, Cherney was imbued with a passion for recording, as was readily evident in a previously unpublished Pro Sound News interview from 2011: “You find this thing you want to dedicate your life to, and it becomes a compulsion to do it. You were lucky enough that you figured out what your special purpose in life was! Now, it doesn’t dictate how you’re necessarily going to make a living doing it, but for its own sake—for the sake of the art—you want to excel at it. You want to grow and you want to be able to do it well, whether you make two pennies doing it or not—and hopefully it works out, you can make a living and have a life doing it.”

He is survived by his wife, former Record Plant president and fellow TEC Hall of Fame inductee, Rose Mann-Cherney.

Ed Cherney •