Bruce Swedien

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Bruce Swedien
Swedien in 1998
Swedien in 1998
Background information
Born(1934-04-19)April 19, 1934
Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.
DiedNovember 16, 2020(2020-11-16) (aged 86)
Gainesville, Florida, U.S.
  • Audio engineer
  • songwriter
  • record producer

Bruce Swedien (/swəˈdn/ swə-DEEN) (April 19, 1934 – November 16, 2020) was an American recording engineer, mixing engineer and record producer. He was widely known for his work with Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones, Paul McCartney and Barbra Streisand.[1]

Swedien first achieved widespread recognition as engineer with Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons' 1962 single "Big Girls Don't Cry" which sold over one million copies and stayed at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for five weeks.[2]

Swedien won 5 Grammy Awards for Best Engineered Album for his work with Jackson and Jones. He received 13 additional nominations.[3]

Early life and education[edit]

Swedien was born on April 19, 1934, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His parents, Ellsworth and Louise (Perusse) Swedien, Ellsworth of Swedish descent, and Louise of French descent, were both classically-trained musicians, leading Swedien to develop a passion for music and recording at an early age.[4][5] His father bought him a disc recording machine when he was 10 and a professional tape recorder after graduating high school.[6] Swedien studied electrical engineering with a minor in music at the University of Minnesota, but did not graduate.[6]


In 1954, aged 20, Swedien set up a recording studio in the old Garrick/LaSalle movie theater in Minneapolis.[7] He transformed the space into the Swedien Recording Studio, where he produced and recorded music for several years with artists such as Art Blakey and Herbie Mann. However, in late 1957, he sold the studio and relocated to Chicago.[6][8]

In 1957, he left Minneapolis and began working for RCA Victor Records in Chicago.[6] Shortly after that, he left for Universal Recording Corporation where he worked under chief engineer Bill Putnam.[9] He first met Quincy Jones when Jones was vice president for Mercury Records in Chicago. The two worked on albums for artists like Dinah Washington and Sarah Vaughan. Swedien moved to Brunswick Records where he ran and developed the label's studios and sound in the late 1960s and 1970s. The label was responsible for numerous R&B and pop hits during that time, with artists such as The Chi-Lites, Tyrone Davis and Jackie Wilson.[10]

Swedien was known for pioneering the "Acusonic Recording Process", pairing up microphones together on vocals and instruments, a technique enabled by synchronizing several multi-track recorders with SMPTE timecode. This achieved an enhanced roomy ambient sound, some of which is evident on albums produced in collaboration with Jones on such tracks as George Benson's "Give Me the Night", and the Michael Jackson albums on which he had worked.[11][12] He would often experiment while recording with Jackson, having the singer stand at different distances from the microphone and singing through a cardboard tube, among other techniques. Swedien wrote about his experience working with Jackson in a 2009 book titled In the Studio with Michael Jackson.[6]

His pop work included recordings by Patti Austin, Natalie Cole, Roberta Flack, Mick Jagger, David Hasselhoff, Jennifer Lopez,[13] Paul McCartney, Diana Ross, Rufus, Chaka Khan, Barbra Streisand, Lena Horne, Donna Summer, and Sarah Vaughan. He worked on the scores for Night Shift, The Color Purple and Running Scared.[14]


On November 10, 2001, he was awarded an honorary doctorate in philosophy from the Luleå University of Technology for his achievements as a sound engineer. Swedien also held classes at the Swedish National Radio for practicing sound engineers.[15]

On August 30, 2015, Swedien was presented the Pensado Giant Award at the second annual Pensado Awards held at Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City, California.[16] The award was presented by Quincy Jones.[17]


Swedien died on November 16, 2020, at the age of 86, from surgery complications for a broken hip caused by a fall.[18][19]


Swedien won 5 Grammy Awards and was nominated 12 times.[3]

Year Title Artist Category Role Result
1970 Moog Groove The Electronic Concept Orchestra Best Engineered Recording – Non-Classical Engineer Nominated
1979 Sounds...and Stuff Like That!! Quincy Jones Best Engineered Recording – Non-Classical Engineer Nominated
1981 "Give Me the Night" George Benson Best Engineered Recording – Non-Classical Engineer Nominated
1982 The Dude Quincy Jones Best Engineered Recording – Non-Classical Engineer Nominated
1984 Thriller Michael Jackson Best Engineered Recording – Non-Classical Engineer Won
1988 Bad Best Engineered Recording – Non-Classical Engineer Won
1991 Back on the Block Quincy Jones Best Engineered Recording – Non-Classical Engineer Won
1993 Dangerous Michael Jackson Best Engineered Recording – Non-Classical Producer, engineer Won
"Jam" Best Rhythm & Blues Song Composer Nominated
1996 HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I Album of the Year Producer, engineer Nominated
Best Engineered Recording – Non-Classical Producer, engineer Nominated
1997 Q's Jook Joint Quincy Jones Best Engineered Recording – Non-Classical Engineer Won


  1. ^ "Michael Jackson's Thriller engineer, Bruce Swedien, has died aged 86". BBC News. November 18, 2020. Retrieved November 18, 2020.
  2. ^ "The Hot 100 Chart". Billboard. Retrieved November 18, 2020.
  3. ^ a b "Bruce Swedien". May 19, 2020. Retrieved November 18, 2020.
  4. ^ "Bruce Swedien, Grammy-Winning Audio Engineer of 'Thriller,' Dies at 86". Variety. November 18, 2020.
  5. ^ "Remembering The Musical Genius Of Master Engineer Bruce Swedien". Retrieved January 23, 2023.
  6. ^ a b c d e Sandomir, Richard (November 22, 2020). "Bruce Swedien, a Shaper of Michael Jackson's Sound, Dies at 86". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 23, 2023.
  7. ^ "2541 Nicollet: Unmarked and invisible, it's nevertheless a musical heritage site". MinnPost. May 27, 2015. Retrieved January 23, 2023.
  8. ^ Metason. "Bruce Swedien". ArtistInfo. Retrieved January 23, 2023.
  9. ^ "Universal Audio".
  10. ^ Swedien, Bruce & Bill Gibson (2013). The Bruce Swedien Recording Method. New York: Hal Leonard Books; ISBN 978-1-4584-1119-8
  11. ^ Savage, Mark (November 18, 2020). "Michael Jackson's Thriller engineer, Bruce Swedien, has died aged 86". BBC News. Retrieved November 18, 2020.
  12. ^ Sweeney. Daniel ["History in the Making], Acoustic Sciences Corporation, November 7, 2012.
  13. ^ "Swedien Works with Jennifer Lopez".
  14. ^ "Bruce Swedien | Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved November 18, 2020.
  15. ^ Sweeney, Daniel. [An incredible new sound for Engineers], Acoustic Sciences Corporation; retrieved March 27, 2014.
  16. ^ "All Recording – ProSoundWeb".
  17. ^ "Second Annual Pensado Awards Winners Announced". Mixonline. September 1, 2015. Retrieved November 18, 2020.
  18. ^ Storer, Rhi (November 18, 2020). "Bruce Swedien, studio engineer for Michael Jackson, dies aged 86". The Guardian. Retrieved November 18, 2020.
  19. ^ Noxon, Ar (November 18, 2020). "Rest In Peace: Bruce Swedien 1934-2020". Acoustic Sciences Corporation. Retrieved January 23, 2023.

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