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Ed Cherney, Grammy-Winning Engineer for Bonnie Raitt & The Rolling Stones, Dies at 69

on October 22, 2019 No comments
by Melinda Newman

Ed Cherney, a Grammy and Emmy-winning engineer, who worked on such seminal works as Bonnie Raitt’s Nick of Time, Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven,” The Rolling StonesBridges to Babylon, Willie Nelson’s My Way and hundreds more, died Tuesday (Oct. 22) from cancer. He was 69.

Other artists he worked with included Bob Dylan, Bette Midler, Elton John, Sting, Etta James, Bob Seger and Jackson Browne, among others.


Heartbroken at the loss of my dear friend and brilliant engineer/producer, Ed Cherney. Together with Don Was, we made a mighty trio, creating some of the most celebrated albums of our careers, garnering us a string of Grammy nominations and awards for Nick of Time, Luck of the Draw, Longing in their Hearts and Road Tested in the early-mid 90’s.
He was one of the sweetest, funniest, big hearted and talented people I’ve ever known, as widely liked as he was respected as one of our businesses greatest recording Engineers. I will miss him so much and am so grateful we got to have him as long as we did.
Thank God he is out of pain and my deepest sympathy goes out to his beloved longtime wife and partner, Rose.
Bonnie Raitt

Cherney, who worked out of The Village Studios in Los Angeles, was known for his quick-witted, jolly manner. The Chicago-native enjoyed a great conversation or golf game as much as finding the perfect sound. 

Ed Cherney, Bonnie Raitt and Don Was recording at The Sound Factory, Hollywood – probably 1989

“Eddie was a real sonic genius,” says producer Don Was, who worked with Cherney on the Raitt and Rolling Stones’ albums, among others. “He knew how to add some ear-pleasing sparkle and sheen while keeping the music feeling intimate and natural. The records we did with Bonnie are perfect examples. More importantly, he added a really warm spirit to every session. Ed was funny humble and so good hearted that everyone felt at ease. A terrific person and a great friend. He is utterly irreplaceable.” 

After Cherney’s wife, former Record Plant head Rose Mann-Cherney, announced news of his death on Facebook Tuesday morning, other tributes began pouring in from fellow engineers and producers, as well as artists like Slash, Keith Richards, Jann Arden and Raitt.

Cherney, who was nominated for five Grammys, snagged his first win in 1995 for best engineered album/non- classical for Raitt’s Longing in Their Hearts. That year, he engineered three of the five nominees in the category. He won again in 2003 for best traditional blues album for Buddy Guy’s Blues Singer and in 2016 for the best traditional pop vocal album with Willie Nelson’s Summertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin, an award he won again in 2018 forNelson’s My Way. In 2015, he won an Emmy for HBO’s Bessie Smith film Bessie.

NAMM Interview – January 20, 2012

In an oral history celebrating the 30th anniversary of Raitt’s Nick of Time, Cherney told Billboard about the precision required to get just the right sound, especially on “Thing Called Love.” “It may have taken me five or six times to nail the mix on that, because where it sounded great was on the head of a pin. It was that delicate.”  When the album went on to win album of the year at the 1990 Grammys, Cherney said, “It came out of nowhere — this was just a little record. No one was expecting that at all. I may have cried. I may have just broken down and cried.”

Nick Of Time Studio – Bonnie Raitt and Ed Cherney discussing the album’s direction with producer Don Was (far-right) 1989 © Mr. Bonzai
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Iconic engineer Al Schmitt, a close friend of Cherney’s who talked with him everyday, tells Billboard, “Ed’s ability to concentrate and focus was brilliant. He was always thinking about the final product and his ability to create great musical balances was something very special. Also, his incredible sense of humor and the ability to keep things light no matter what was going on. He was the best of the best.” 

Engineer Ann Mincieli, best known for her work with Alicia Keys, was also a friend of Cherney’s. She tells Billboard, “From the Rolling Stones to Bonnie Raitt and everyone in between, Ed Cherney defined his sound and left us with a sonic imprint we will never forget. Ed and his wife Rose helped raise the bar of every aspect of the music industry and mentored several people like myself. As [Recording Academy] Producers & Engineers Wing co-chairs, we walked the halls of Congress, sat behind a console, lobbied for credits and high-resolution audio and the list goes on and on.”

Appropriately enough, his email address was “mixerdudeman.” And fitting of his humility, on his website instead of tributes from the superstars he worked with, he had a quote from his dog, Archie: “Cherney is one of the great music engineers of all time. And then there’s bacon.”

His mantra, also on his website, best expressed his approach. Even though, by his own admission, he was obsessed with technology, he wrote: “Ultimately, mixing is about heart — nobody leaves a session dancing to what kind of gear you used.”


Source: © Copyright Billboard
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This is my friend Dick Waterman; we met at Mariposa in 1965 — I was hosting a blues workshop and he was managing the legendary blues singer Son House; he also worked with so many great blues folk, from Fred McDowell to Skip James, to Bonnie Raitt and Buddy Guy. In the pioneer days of blues internet groups, he was Richard the Younger and I was Richard the Elder (since I was a year older than he). Today's his 85th birthday — send him and his smashing wife Cinda greetings to their home in Oxford, Mississippi (jinxblues@aol.com) and tell him I sent you! ... See MoreSee Less

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On the eve of John’s 74th birthday, I’m scrolling through precious memories of our many years together. Still so hard to believe I’ll never get to look across at him singing Angel with me again.

One of my favorite memories is of a night way back in '73, when a gang of us gathered back at the motel after a day hanging out at each others’ shows at the Philly Folk Festival.
We grabbed our instruments and some libations and met back up at Stevie Goodman’s room-- John, me, Al Bunetta, Freebo, David Bromberg, John Hartford, and a slew of others, too many to mention. Soon we were sprawled over both beds, chairs, every corner of the room. Stevie, John and I were facing each other across the two beds and Stevie started playing and we all joined in. What followed was the most extraordinary night of music—Stevie, the pied piper, seemed to know an endless stream of folk songs, Beatles, Everly Brothers, old rock and roll—all the verses and intricate chords too. We swapped leads and harmonies and there may have been a mandolin and some harmonica. It was a magical night and we all felt it.

I can still see Stevie's irrepressible grin and John beaming back at him. The love they shared for each other was as true and deep as any I've witnessed.
There was so much joy and love in that room, I'll never forget it.

When the dawn's light finally crept under the motel curtains, we dragged ourselves up and straggled back down the halls, spent but still buzzed and grinning, passing the Festival goers on their way to the breakfast buffet.

Remembering this special night, I celebrate John on his birthday today. And I picture him reunited with his beloved Stevie and Al--arms wrapped around each other, grinning ear to ear, enjoying every bit of what he hoped he'd find when he finally got to Heaven.

Happy Birthday, my dear pal. I miss you so much. You’re here in my heart and I'll be singing Angel for you every time. You give me one thing, that I can hold on to. ...
To believe in this livin'.

To John, Fiona and the boys, I send
all my love,

Bonnie

#IRememberEverything
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From BRHQ -- Tomorrow night, Oct 7th 7:30pm-9:00pm ET (right BEFORE the VP debate) Watch Bonnie perform on the Concert Across America to End Gun Violence!
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For the full list of performers and to make donations click here: tinyurl.com/Concert-Performers

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