Friday, June 12, 2009

Famous Keyboardist & Producer Barry Beckett Dead At Age 66

I had the very good fortune to get to know and work with Barry Beckett at Muscle Shoals Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, on a project for A&M Records artist Peter Pringle, when I was Vice-President of A&R for A&M. Being in the same studio with Barry and other legendary session musicians was something I'll never forget. I recall going out to dinner in Muscle Shoals or Florence and everywhere it was 'dry' - no alcohol. So we'd drink back Coca Cola and have some very interesting conversations. Barry loved the south and his pride showed. I am very glad I got to know him for a short time. Now here is the official story on his passing.


Barry Beckett, who produced and accompanied singers Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson and Paul Simon, has died at his home in Hendersonville, Tenn., at the age of 66.

He had been diagnosed with prostate cancer and later with thyroid cancer. He also suffered several strokes, including one in February from which he never recovered, according to the Alabama Times Daily.

In the 1970s in Muscle Shoals, Ala., Beckett played keyboard on albums by Simon, Bob Seger and the Staple Singers as part of the famed Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. He appeared on Simon's Kodachrome, Seger's Mainstreet, the Staple Singers' Respect Yourself and Nelson's Bloody Mary Morning.
Production credits

As a producer, Beckett collaborated with the late Jerry Wexler on Dylan's first platinum album, Slow Train Coming, and Dire Straits' album Communique.

Etta James, Tammy Wynette and rockers Elton John and Sting are among the artists he produced.

In 1985, he moved to Nashville where he was in demand among country stars. One of his first projects was co-producing Hank Williams Jr.'s Mind Your Own Business and Born to Boogie.

He won an American Country Music Association award for Williams's There's a Tear in My Beer.

Beckett's other production credits include Kenny Chesney's When I Close My Eyes, Delbert McClinton's Giving It Up for Your Love and Neal McCoy's No Doubt About It.

Dick Cooper, Beckett's friend and assistant, said Beckett was a perfectionist who sometimes came across as a hard-driving musician but who had a heart of gold.

"We called him The Bear," he said. "He was just a great, big teddy bear."