Richard Perry, Music Producer

By Harry Brads

Anyone who feels connected to the best music of the last fifty years (who doesn’t?) will revel in this uniquely American success story. Even at a young age, Richard Perry knew that his destiny was to bring music into people’s lives.

Born in Brooklyn, Richard Perry came to rock music young. In 1955, at the age of 12, he attended the first of Alan Freed’s live rock shows at the Paramount Theatre. Perry began his career in rock music as a local performer during his adolescence. Then after graduating college in 1960, he did some songwriting and began launching his career as a music producer with early projects with Captain Beefheart and Fats Domino.

And so, a start of a legendary career. As one of the most successful producers in music history, Perry has produced classic albums and singles with such legendary artists as Rod Stewart, Ray Charles, The Pointer Sisters, Barbra Streisand, Carly Simon, Ringo Starr, Tina Turner, and the list goes on.

In his candid memoir, Cloud Nine: Memoirs of a Record Producer, Perry transports us through his eventful life, from his childhood in Brooklyn, where he played in bands, starred in musicals, and witnessed the birth of rock ‘n’ roll; through his sometimes rocky but always thrilling climb up the music-business ladder; and finally, into the studios and personal lives of the many superstars who provide our most enduring soundtrack.

What he couldn’t have dreamed was that his meteoric rise through the ranks of the music business would result in successful, ground-breaking, and award-winning collaborations. The winner of a Special Merit Award from the Grammys has produced hits for legendary performers, all of whom trusted him to shape the sound that made them great.

While he had success for many years, “Richard Perry would become the most renowned producer in the field during the ’70s, and the array of albums with which he was associated, made his name synonymous with success”, said Bruce Eder of All Music Guide. In 1970 Perry produced Barbra Streisand’s Stoney End LP. Another music legend, Clive Davis, then president of Columbia Records, was instrumental in putting the two together. He believed that Barbra would greatly benefit from the collaboration, and he was right. His last album with Streisand was Live Concert At The Forum, for which she received a Grammy Award nomination.

While producing for some of the top musical acts of the ’80s, including Julio Iglesias and Willie Nelson, Perry helped establish a new theater at his prep school of eight years, Brooklyn’s Poly Prep. “I was deeply honored that this state-of-the-art facility not only bears his name but also has become an important cultural resource for the community,” said Perry

Then 1992 brought Perry into the studio to do an album with Ray Charles. Released the following year, My World produced the first top 10 solo single hit Charles has had in over 25 years, “A Song For You,” the classic Leon Russell composition. In addition, it earned Charles the 1994 Grammy Award for Best R&B Male Vocal Performance. Stephen Holden of Rolling Stone Magazine touted My World as “an album that brings the sixty-two-year-old father of modern soul back. Produced by Richard Perry, who twenty years ago, masterminded the entries by Barbra Streisand, Carly Simon, Ringo Starr, and Harry Nilsson into the pop mainstream, My World takes the sound of Charles’ best ’60s records. It discreetly updates it by underlining the swelling gospel choruses with crisp, techno-improved beats.”

In 1995, Perry created an album for The Temptations. It contained ten of the most memorable love songs recorded with modern R&B arrangements and enhanced by The Temptations’ exquisite vocal interpretations. Andrew Hamilton of All Music Guide said, “Richard Perry outdid himself with this production; he expertly captured the essence of the Temptations. Their signature vocal blend is emphasized at every turn, and why not? It’s what brought throngs of fans into their fold in the first place. He didn’t concentrate on one lead singer, like others have in the past. The Temptations were initially marketed as a group of five outstanding lead singers, and that’s what you get with this excellent collection.”

Although Perry has had many successes, he has had to overcome many adversities. After contracting polio at the age of twelve, he wasn’t expected to walk again. But Perry proved doctors wrong by excelling as a high jumper on his track and field team. Forty-eight years later, in 2003, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, and even though there is no known cure, he continued to work and write.

Throughout his story, Perry remains entertaining and fun-loving company, always awed by his proximity to greatness and boundlessly enthusiastic about his contributions to the most beloved art form.

For more information on Richard Perry, visit him a