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Versatile music producer Phil Ramone dies at 79: report

Producers Phil Ramone and John Burk hold the awards won by Ray Charles and his album "Genius Loves Company" at the 47th annual Grammy Awards
Producers Phil Ramone and John Burk hold the awards won by Ray Charles and his album "Genius Loves Company" at the 47th annual Grammy Awards

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Phil Ramone, a versatile music producer who won 14 Grammy Awards and worked with a glittering roster of stars like Billy Joel, Tony Bennett, Ray Charles and Paul Simon, died in Manhattan on Saturday, the New York Times reported. He was 79.

Ramone's son, Matthew, confirmed the death to the newspaper but did not release a cause.

Born in South Africa, Ramone was raised in Brooklyn, New York. In the late 1950s he co-founded an independent studio called A&R Recording in New York.

His first Grammy was for his sound engineering on the 1964 jazz-bossa nova album "Getz/Gilberto" by Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto.

He went on to win a total of 14 Grammy Awards, including album of the year honors for producing Paul Simon's top-selling 1975 release "Still Crazy After All These Years" and Ray Charles' 2004 duets album "Genius Loves Company."

Tony Bennett, whose series of "duets" albums were produced by Ramone, said in a statement that Ramone was a "very gifted musician and producer."

"It was a joy to have him work with me in the recording studio on so many projects, as he had a wonderful sense of humor and a deep love of music," Bennett said.

Neil Portnow, president and chief executive of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, said in a statement Ramone had made "countless significant contributions" to the music industry.

"Our industry has lost an immense talent and a true visionary and genius, and The Academy has lost a very dear and close friend," he said. "Everyone who encountered Phil came away a better person for it, professionally or personally."

Ramone was an early advocate of the compact disc. He played a key role in the introduction of the CD when the 1978 Billy Joel album "52nd Street," which Ramone had produced, was re-released in 1982 as the first commercially available album on CD.

He showed a passion for all forms of entertainment, applying his musical talents to projects in film, theater and television. He worked as a music supervisor on the popular 1983 film "Flashdance" and the 1985 dance movie "White Nights."

The Times reported that, although some media sources had said he was 72, public records and his family confirmed that Ramone was 79.

Ramone was not associated with the punk band The Ramones, whose members all adopted pseudonyms using the surname Ramone.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Tim Gaynor and Philip Barbara)

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