Bruce Swedien, the acclaimed audio engineer best known for his work with Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones, has died at the age of 86. His daughter, the musician Roberta Swedien, confirmed the news on Facebook, writing, “He had a long life full of love, great music, big boats and a beautiful marriage. We will celebrate that life. He was loved by everyone.”
Swedien was born in Minneapolis in 1934 and showed an interest in recording from an early age. He first found success in 1962, when he received his first Grammy nomination for Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons’ ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry’, and over the next decade went on to record with jazz legends including Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Oscar Peterson, Sarah Vaughn, and Dinah Washington. It was also during this time that Swedien met Jones, at the time an up-and-coming producer, who brought him to New York in 1977 to meet Michael Jackson and work on the music for The Wiz. After working on Jackson’s debut album Off the Wall, Swedien recorded and mixed Thriller, Bad, and Dangerous and became a close collaborator to both Jones and Jackson.
On Wednesday, Jones posted a tribute to Swedien on social media. “I am absolutely devastated to learn the news that we lost my dear brother-in-arms, the legendary Bruce Swedien,” he wrote. “There are not enough words to express how much Bruce meant to me… He was without question the absolute best engineer in the business, and for more than 70 years I wouldn’t even think about going into a recording session unless I knew Bruce was behind the board. Along with the late great Rod Temperton, we reached heights that we could have never imagined and made history together. I have always said it’s no accident that more than four decades later no matter where I go in the world, in every club, like clockwork at the witching hour you hear ‘Billie Jean,’ ‘Beat It,’ ‘Wanna Be Starting Something,’ and ‘Thriller.’ That was the sonic genius of Bruce Swedien, and to this day I can hear artists trying to replicate him.”
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