Phil Ramone: A Music Pioneer in Film, from 'Walkabout' to 'Flashdance' to 'August Rush'
Madonna's "Crazy For You" and Lionel Richie's "Say You Say Me" were among the movie-spawned hits to feature Ramone's signature sound.
Phil Ramone was the rare record producer and engineer who was active and thriving in the live-performance realm as well as film, TV and theater. He produced numerous MusiCares person of the year galas during Grammy Week, tributes to performers such as Bono, Don Henley, Brian Wilson and Aretha Franklin, and was active with the Songwriters Hall of Fame annual event. He also worked on the musical elements of Broadway concert shows by Liza Minnelli and Raffi. Although known for his engineering and production, Ramone had an equally broad career in film, television and theater.
Ramone's film career began as a music recordist and engineer, producing Burt Bacharach's work for the James Bond film Casino Royale and then working in the 1970s on Nicholas Roeg's Walkabout, Woody Allen's Sleepers and Paul Simon's One Trick Pony.
He had the role of music advisor on Warren Beatty's Shampoo and music/soundtrack supervisor on Flashdance, the break-dancing movie Body Rock and White Knights, which included the Oscar-winning song “Say You Say me” by Lionel Richie. Michael Sembello’s 1983 chart-topper “Maniac” was among the records he produced for the Flashdance soundtrack.
Ramone brought in a then-inexperienced Madonna to sing “Crazy for You” for the Vision Quest soundtrack, produced Elton John singing Alan Menken's “The Measure of a Man” for Rocky V, and produced three tracks in August Rush, the soundtrack of which cracked the top 40 on the Billboard 200 in 2007.
He also produced the music for Kevin Spacey's tribute to Bobby Darin, Beyond the Sea. In 2003, he executive produced a documentary on film composers titled “The Score” that aired on the now-defunct cable channel Trio.
Ramone won an Emmy Award in 1973 for CBS' Duke Ellington... We Love You Madly, for which he was the sound mixer.
Ramone's Broadway-related credits are mostly related to original cast albums that he produced or engineered, among them Promises, Promises, New Faces '68, Oh! Calcutta, Pippin” and Chicago. In 2006, he was the executive producer of the Billy Elliot cast albums and three years earlier produced The Boy From Oz.