R.I.P. legendary "Thriller" engineer Bruce Swedien

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He was the best, and often the silent key to making a great album become an iconic one. Today we say a sad goodbye to music producer and audio engineer Bruce Swedien at age 86. Swedien was known as the “go to” engineer for many of the great albums of the 70s, 80s and 90s, and was particularly lauded for his work on several Quincy Jones productions, including Michael Jackson’s Thriller. The Minnesota native began his career working with Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons in the early 60s, and he rose the ranks of popular music due to his keen ear and the crisp precision of his work, as well as his creation of ethereal “space” on projects using his Acusonic Recording Process.

He was the best, and often the silent key to making a great album become an iconic one. Today we say a sad goodbye to music producer and audio engineer Bruce Swedien at age 86. Swedien was known as the “go to” engineer for many of the great albums of the 70s, 80s and 90s, and was particularly lauded for his work on several Quincy Jones productions, including Michael Jackson’s Thriller. The Minnesota native began his career working with Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons in the early 60s, and he rose the ranks of popular music due to his keen ear and the crisp precision of his work, as well as his creation of ethereal “space” on projects using his Acusonic Recording Process.

Artists from Roberta Flack to Paul McCartney to Barbra Streisand and countless others called on Swedien in his prime years as perhaps the most respected engineer in popular music. And never was that work more appreciated than on his regular work with Quincy Jones’ sterling productions for Michael Jackson, Patti Austin, Chaka Khan and more. Chi-Lites leader Marshall Thompson today called him "The man that gave the original Chi-Lites our sound for all of our hits."

Quincy Jones posted: There are not enough words to express how much Bruce meant to me…He was without question the absolute best engineer in the business, & 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 & 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,” & “Thriller.” That was the sonic genius of Bruce Swedien, & to this day I can hear artists trying to replicate him. I’m going to miss your presence every single day “Svensk”, but I will cherish every moment we shared together laughin’, lovin’, livin’, & givin’...Rest In Peace my brother.

The life of a music engineer tends to be one that doesn’t amass fans or notoriety, and Swedien never became a household name. But among his peers and among the greatest artists in the world, he was considered a legend. Rest in peace, Mr. Swedien.

 

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