Bruce Swedien, a Grammy Award-winning recording engineer finest identified for his collaboration with Michael Jackson and the producer Quincy Jones on the hit albums “Thriller” and “Off the Wall,” died on Nov. 16 in Gainesville, Fla. He was 86.
His daughter Roberta Swedien mentioned the reason for demise, in a hospital, was issues of surgical procedure for a damaged hip. He had additionally examined optimistic for Covid-19 however was asymptomatic.
Raised by mother and father who had been skilled musicians and inspired his love of music, Mr. Swedien (pronounced swe-DEEN) was a masterly studio technician who, in a profession of almost 60 years, captured the sound of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Duke Ellington, Depend Basie, Barbra Streisand, Dinah Washington, Jackie Wilson, Sarah Vaughan and Jennifer Lopez.
His most fruitful partnerships had been with Mr. Jackson and Mr. Jones. Mr. Swedien met Mr. Jones in Chicago within the 1950s and labored with him on a number of tasks, together with data by Billy Eckstine and Dinah Washington, after which on “The Wiz,” the 1978 movie adaptation of the Broadway musical based mostly on “The Wizard of Oz.” Mr. Jackson performed the Scarecrow; Mr. Jones was the movie’s music supervisor and arranger; Mr. Swedien was the music recording engineer.
By 1979 they had been engaged on “Off the Wall,” the primary of their many ventures with Mr. Jackson. Mr. Swedien would win three of his Grammys for engineering Mr. Jackson’s subsequent three albums, “Thriller,” “Dangerous” and “Harmful”; his different two had been for his work on Mr. Jones’s “Q’s Jook Joint” and “Back on the Block.”
In Mr. Jackson, Mr. Swedien discovered a prepared participant in studio experimentation.
Whereas recording Mr. Jackson’s background vocals, Mr. Swedien had him take two steps again from the microphone after every of the a number of takes after which layered all of them right into a Jackson “choir.” For the sound of Mr. Jackson’s “Don’t suppose twice!” exclamation on “Billie Jean,” he had him sing by means of a five-foot-long cardboard tube.
For “Thriller,” he rejected digital expertise regardless of its readability and recorded all of Mr. Jackson’s songs in analog, synchronizing a number of 24-track machines. “The sound of pure analog — 24-track, two-track and even mono — could be very heat and musical,” he told Reverb, an internet music market that features information and interviews, in 2018. “It captures music with nice realism.”
Mr. Swedien selected microphones for Mr. Jackson with out interference from the singer or from Mr. Jones, and he was free to combine the sound as he desired.
“They’d depart the room and I’d get all of it formed up and prepared, after which they’d come again and we’d hear and make slight changes,” he said in an interview in 2009 with Sound on Sound, an audio expertise publication.
Mr. Swedien described his experiences with the singer in a 2009 e-book, “In the Studio With Michael Jackson.”
In 2010, a yr after Mr. Jackson’s demise, Mr. Swedien was part of a panel of six former producers and engineers who had been requested by the singer’s property to find out if it was his voice on “Breaking News,” the primary monitor launched from the posthumously assembled album “Michael.”
The panel listened to the uncooked vocals of “Breaking Information” and two different songs recorded in 2007 and confirmed that Mr. Jackson had certainly sung them.
Bruce Frederick Swedien was born on April 19, 1934, in Minneapolis. His mom, Louise (Perusse) Swedien, was a singer, pianist and composer. His father, Ellsworth, was a classical pianist, composer and choir director.
Understanding that younger Bruce beloved music, his father purchased him a disc recording machine when he was 10. 4 years later, he was working at a recording studio on weekends and in the summertime. He additionally studied classical piano approach for a number of years till graduating from highschool.
His commencement reward was an expert tape recorder that he toted round Minneapolis, recording any prepared jazz bands, polka teams and choirs whereas learning electrical engineering and music on the College of Minnesota.
He by no means graduated, however he cemented his future when he began working because the operator of a neighborhood music firm’s recording studio; at age 20, he purchased the gear and moved it to an previous movie show. In 1957, he bought it and moved to Chicago to work for RCA Victor Information, the place the artists he recorded included the Chicago Symphony.
Lower than a yr later, he left to work for the famend engineer Invoice Putnam at Common Recording, additionally in Chicago.
“A whole lot of occasions I’d be doing Basie’s band and the periods would begin at 7 at night time,” Mr. Swedien told Tape Op, a music recording journal, in 2012. “I keep in mind sitting on the piano speaking to Duke Ellington. He was such a wonderful man. He’d inform me that issues don’t occur in music till after darkish.”
Mr. Swedien was inspired to tinker in a studio so effectively designed that he known as it a “musical instrument.” Whereas recording the Basie band’s efficiency of “Night Time Is the Right Time” for the album “Just the Blues” (1960), Mr. Swedien mused concerning the trombone solo.
“I believed to myself, ‘Wouldn’t or not it’s nice to provide that trombone solo a singular sonic picture?’” he advised Sound on Sound. “So I advised the soloist that, when it was time for him to solo, he ought to stand up and tiptoe over into the nook of the studio, and play his solo into the nook, away from all of the mics. He did that and everybody went bananas! I’m nonetheless so pleased with that recording.”
He earned his first Grammy nomination for engineering the 4 Seasons’ single “Huge Women Don’t Cry,” which hit No. 1 on the Billboard Sizzling 100 chart in 1962. After going unbiased in 1969, he recorded a spread of artists together with Muddy Waters, the Chi-Lites, Corridor & Oates, Lesley Gore and Roberta Flack.
When “Lena Horne: The Girl and Her Music,” recorded throughout Ms. Horne’s Broadway run on the Nederlander Theater, was launched in 1981, John S. Wilson of The New York Occasions praised Mr. Swedien’s work.
“She is an intense performer who shapes each syllable that she sings or speaks to realize the total influence that she intends, from delicate to soothing, from anger to pleasure,” Mr. Wilson wrote. “Whichever means it goes, Miss Horne is in all of it the best way, fully, and Bruce Swedien’s recording has caught the total taste of it.”
By then, he had been nominated for four more Grammys, together with two for albums produced by Mr. Jones, one by George Benson and one by the synth-pop Electronic Concept Orchestra.
His collaboration with Mr. Jackson additionally led to nominations within the 1990s for songwriting (the only “Jam,” written with Mr. Jackson, René Moore and Teddy Riley) and for co-producing (“HIStory: Previous, Current and Future, E book I”).
Along with his daughter Roberta, Mr. Swedien, who lived in Ocala, Fla., is survived by one other daughter, Julie Johnson, and his spouse, Beatrice (Anderson) Swedien, a detailed accomplice in his work since they married as youngsters.
After Mr. Swedien’s demise, Mr. Jones mentioned on Instagram that he was “with out query the best possible engineer within the enterprise” and a “sonic genius.”