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This story first appeared in the June 13 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
With Apple’s May 28 announcement that it will pay $3 billion to buy Beats Electronics, the company Jimmy Iovine founded with Dr. Dre in 2006, the 61-year-old Iovine is about to join the billionaires’ club. But decades before the term “digital music” existed, the former chairman of Interscope Geffen A&M was a sound engineer in New York. In the early 1970s, the Brooklyn-born Iovine got his start cleaning a recording studio. That led to a job as an assistant to Record Plant owner/chief engineer Roy Cicala and work with John Lennon in the early ’70s on his Mind Games and Walls and Bridges albums. “I consider the recording studio where I was born,” he told THR in 2012. “What I am at heart is a second engineer [the assistant to the sound engineer].” Iovine still was living with his parents when he went to work on Bruce Springsteen’s hugely successful 1975 Born to Run album.
As last year’s USC commencement speaker, he talked about working with the Boss on that album’s 1978 follow-up, Darkness on the Edge of Town, and having trouble getting a drum sound right. When another engineer was brought in, Iovine said that this “sounded like a massive vote of no-confidence” and threatened to quit. But he took the advice Springsteen’s manager Jon Landau gave him — “This is not about you; it’s Bruce’s album and [about] making it the best we can” — to heart, and it became his philosophic cornerstone for working with talent. Iovine’s collaboration with Springsteen led to the gig he says “really launched my career” — his first producing job, which came on Patti Smith’s 1978 hit single “Because the Night.” Since then, his career has included co-founding Interscope Records, co-producing Eminem’s 2002 film 8 Mile and mentoring on American Idol, yet, Iovine says, “I learned everything about business and about music and stuff from being a second engineer.”
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