From left: Producer Jimmy Jam, Recording Academy President/CEO Neil Portnow, and Jimmy Iovine attend the 5th annual Producers & Engineers Wing Event honoring Iovine at The Village Recording Studios in L.A. (Photo by Michael Kovac/WireImage)
The Grammy week celebration that honors producers and engineers, now in its fifth year, has earned a reputation for being a casual and easygoing event with little pretense and considerable camaraderie. It's hardly a surprise that in the Village Studios largest room, where Interscope chief/Beats by Dre co-founder/former producer and engineer Jimmy Iovine was honored with the Recording Academy Presidents Merit Award on Wednesday night, standing in the front row stage left was Dr. Dre while at stage right was Stevie Nicks. No heavy security needed.
Nicks, Dre and an audience that included Mary J. Blige, P. Diddy, Will.I.Am, Colbie Caillat, Sheila E. Lady Gaga producer/songwriter RedOne and many more (see below) heard Skylar Grey perform on piano a medley of "I'm Coming Home," "Love the Way You Lie" and "I Need a Doctor" and, after Iovine's 20-minute speech, Lana Del Rey perform "Video Games."
Jimmy Jam and Recording Academy president and CEO Neil Portnow also participated in the presentation to Iovine, who ranked no. 10 on Billboard's "Power 100" list last month.
Iovine, whose public profile rose last year when he appeared regularly on "American Idol," gave shout-outs to Larry Jackson, executive VP of A&R, Universal Music Group UK chief executive David Joseph, Eminem manager Paul Rosenberg, Simon Fuller, Nigel Lythgoe and hitmaker Polow da Don. He also pledged support to P. Diddy, noting "we're bringing back Bad Boy in a big way."
Singer/songwriter Lana Del Rey performing on stage at the Producers & Engineers Wing Event (Photo by Michael Kovac/WireImage)
The focus of his speech, though, was on his experiences as an engineer. The first story he told, complete with lesson learned, concerned Bruce Springsteen and working with him on "Born to Run" and "Darkness on the Edge of Town." Iovine was responsible for the drum sound on "Darkness" and after six weeks of takes in two studios, Springsteen was still unhappy with the sound; it reached the point that Little Steven van Zandt was suggesting they bring in "a friend from New Jersey."
Frustrated, Iovine told Springsteen's manager Jon Landau, "This is wrong. I quit. I cant take this anymore. He says, 'Hang on.' Landau, he speaks like Aristotle, so he said, 'I'm going to teach you something -- I am going to teach you something called the Big Picture. This is not about you. … You go into that studio and say to Bruce Springsteen, 'I'm here to support you' and everything will be all right."
Universal Music Group Chairman/CEO Lucian Grainge (left) with Portnow (WireImage)
Landau's advice turned out correct. Everything was great and four weeks later, Springsteen asked Iovine how Patti Smith's album was coming along and Iovine noted they lacked a song that could be hit. Springsteen said, "How about this?" and played "Because the Night," which would become Smith's only top 20 hit.
"I learned the lesson," Iovine said. "Big picture. You support your friends and do what you're supposed to do. … My life has been about people giving me opportunities I don't think I was really ready for."
After the presentation, each of the five floors of the Village Studios was crawling with folks who work on both sides of the studio glass -- Will.i.Am was chatting with Everclear's Art Alexakis in a stairwell, Concord Records' John Burke and saxophonist Dave Koz were holding court on third floor landing and Nicks was conversing with producer Peter Asher, who had spent the day in the studio with an Australian country band, the McClymonts.
From left: Skylar Grey, Jimmy Iovine and Mary J. Blige on the red carpet at the Producers & Engineers Wing event. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/FilmMagic)
The focus, though, was Iovine. Mary J. Blige told Billboard.biz she loves that he is a realist." "He's not afraid to say what he likes and doesn't like. He's just honest -- I love that quality. As musician himself, he can see things as an artist.
"With Jimmy's its like family. He's down to earth and I respect that about our relationship. I don't take it for granted."
Prior to the event inside the studio a cocktail reception was held in a tented area outside that included a small, cramped red carpet. Iovine, Blige, Gray and film producer Brian Grazer all made short appearances on the carpet for photographers and TV crews before heading inside where individual rooms featured displays from sponsors, among them the Musicians Institute, Avid, Ultimate Ears and Shure. West L.A. Music, located less that two blocks away from the studio, had guitars in a hallway with price tags on them.
The Black Eyed Peas' Will.i.Am (left) and "American Idol" Executive Producer Nigel Lythgoe (Photo: WireImage)
That sort of fit the image, Producers & Engineers Wing senior executive director Maureen Droney said that some people thought the gathering would be a "big geek fest" before noting that people "didn't realize that studio people know how to have a good time."
Among the engineers and producers "having a good time" were Al Schmitt, Elliot Scheiner, Adam Anders, Harvey Mason Jr., Ed Cherney, Mike Clink, Recording Academy chair George Flanigen and representatives from L.A. studios such as Ocean Way, Conway, the Record Plant and EastWest.
Iovine (left) with singer Stevie Nicks (Photo: WireImage)
Universal Music Group CEO Zach Horowitz (right), with Portnow (Photo: WireImage).
Dr. Dre, Skylar Grey and JImmy Iovine (Photo: WireImage)
Paul Rosenberg (right), Co-Founder/CEO Shady Records and Goliath Artists Management with Jimmy Iovine (Photo: WireImage)
Hitmaker Polow Da Don (center) with Jimmy Iovine (left) and Stevie Nicks (right) (Photo Wire Image)