John Simon (record producer)

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John Simon
Born (1941-08-11) August 11, 1941 (age 73)
Norwalk, Connecticut, United States
Occupations Musician, producer, composer
Instruments Piano, saxophone, tuba, vocals
Associated acts The Band
Website www.johnsimonmusic.net

John Simon (born August 11, 1941) is an American music producer, composer, writer and performer. Recognized as one of the top record producers in the United States during the late 1960s and the 1970s, Simon produced numerous classic albums that continue to sell more than 30 years later, including The Band’s “Music from Big Pink”, “The Band”, and “The Last Waltz”,[1][2]Cheap Thrills” by Big Brother & the Holding Company featuring Janis Joplin, “Bookends” by Simon & Garfunkel, “Songs of Leonard Cohen” by Leonard Cohen, and “Child Is Father to the Man” by Blood, Sweat & Tears.[3]

Background[edit]

Born in Norwalk, Connecticut, United States, Simon's father, a country doctor, taught him violin and piano at the age of 4.[3] He began writing songs before he was ten and by the time he graduated from high-school, Simon was already leading and writing for several bands and had composed two original musicals.[4] Simon enrolled at Princeton University where he wrote three more musicals and continued his role as a bandleader, taking a band to the finals of the 1st Georgetown Intercollegiate Jazz Festival.[4]

Columbia Records[edit]

After Princeton, Simon was hired as a trainee at Columbia Records. He was first assigned to the Legacy department under the guidance of Goddard Lieberson, then the president of Columbia.[3] Simon’s work during that period involved Original Cast Albums of Broadway shows and audio documentary albums, including “Point of Order”, an LP of the notorious Senate hearings conducted by rabid anti-Communist, Senator Joseph McCarthy and “The Medium Is the Massage” inspired by the writings of media guru, Marshall McLuhan. In 1966, he arranged and produced “Red Rubber Ball” by The Cyrkle. The song, which was co-written by Paul Simon (no relation) of Simon and Garfunkel and Bruce Woodley of The Seekers, went to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.

With the success of “Red Rubber Ball”, Simon was assigned other pop music artists like Frankie Yankovic, “America’s Polka King” and jazzman, Charles Lloyd. The first production for which he also wrote extensive arrangements was “Songs of Leonard Cohen”, Leonard Cohen’s debut album. While producing what was to become the Simon and Garfunkel album, “Bookends”, he met Al Kooper who encouraged him to leave Columbia and become a free-lance producer, which he did, producing Blood, Sweat & Tears’s first album, “Child Is Father To the Man”.[3]

Independent[edit]

About that time, he was recommended to Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary to help Yarrow with a movie he was making with cinematographer, Barry Feinstein.[5] The film was eventually released as “You Are What You Eat” and contained the song, “My Name Is Jack”, written by Simon for that movie, which later became a hit for Manfred Mann.[3] Work on that film brought Simon to Woodstock where he met legendary manager, Albert Grossman. Grossman asked him to produce several acts from his stable of talent, the first being Gordon Lightfoot.[3] Once again, Simon sweetened the project with his orchestral arrangements (“Did She Mention My Name”). After that he was asked to produce an album for Janis Joplin and her band, Big Brother And The Holding Company (“Cheap Thrills”, featuring the hit single, “Piece Of My Heart”).[3] While producing an album for The Electric Flag, he met blues master, Taj Mahal, beginning a musical association which continues to the present.[4] His name is often linked with The Band with whom he was very closely associated.[5] The albums he produced with them, “Music From Big Pink”, “The Band” and ”The Last Waltz” stand as precursors to the genre later labeled “Americana”.[3][5] He was also the Music Director for “The Last Waltz” concert. Other albums of note from that period were “Morning Bugle” by John Hartford, “Jackrabbitt Slim” by Steve Forbert, “Heart To Heart” by David Sanborn and “Priestess” by the influential jazz arranger, Gil Evans.[3] In addition he arranged as well as produced Mama Cass's “Dream a Little Dream of Me” album, “Tiger In The Rain” for Michael Franks and “Down Home” by Seals and Crofts as well as albums for Rachel Faro, Hirth Martinez, Cyrus Faryar and others. Once popular music sprouted Disco and Heavy Metal, he lost interest in producing and only occasionally produced new recordings, including artists popular in Japan, including Motoharu Sano, often labeled “The Japanese Bruce Springsteen”.[3]

Other work[edit]

Simon composed the score for the 1969 Frank Perry film, “Last Summer”. In the Eighties, he wrote two ballet scores for the choreographer, Twyla Tharp[6] and composed circus music for aerialist Philip Petit (after his solo walk between the World Trade Towers). He was the Music Supervisor for a Broadway venture called “Rock & Roll! The First 5,000 Years”, modeled after “Beatlemania” and produced the Original Cast Album of “The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas.” At one point, Paul Simon urged John Simon to follow his muse to be a singer-songwriter in his own right.[6] Consequently, in the early Seventies, he recorded two albums for Warner Brothers, “John Simon’s Album” and “Journey”.[3] Then, fifteen years later, saw the first of four albums for labels in Japan, the first of which, “Out On The Street”, was released in the U.S. by Vanguard.[6] Simon and wife, C.C. Loveheart, wrote and performed a cabaret act called “Alone Together For The First Time Again” and, more recently, co-authored a popular play, “Jackass Flats”, which had its professional premiere in June 2011.[4] A self-described “compulsive musician”. Simon continues to be active. These days he performs his own material in concerts on rare occasions but plays piano weekly with his jazz trio in his hometown near Woodstock, NY.[6]

Solo discography[edit]

Year Album Label
1971 John Simon's Album Water Music Records
1973 Journey Warner Bros.
1992 Out on the Street Pioneer Japan
1995 Harmony Farm Pioneer Japan
Home
2000 The Best and Beyond
2000 Hoagyland: Songs of Hoagy Carmichael Dreamsville
No Band
2006 Baroque Inevitable Sony Music Distribution
Don't Forget What I Told You Warner Bros.

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Band: Music From Big Pink, by Barney Hoskyns
  2. ^ The Band: The Band, by Barney Hoskyns
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k John Simon: Biography, by Bruce Eder
  4. ^ a b c d John Simon: Official Website
  5. ^ a b c "John Simon". Theband.hiof.no. Retrieved 2014-07-12. 
  6. ^ a b c d "Lee Gabites: An Appreciation of John Simon's Solo Career". Theband.hiof.no. 1941-08-11. Retrieved 2014-07-12. 

External links[edit]