Tommy LiPuma, Grammy-Winning Producer & Record Exec, Dies at 80

Tommy LiPuma at the Chaplin Studio Lot.
Jim McCrary/Redferns

Tommy LiPuma at the Chaplin Studio Lot. 

Tommy LiPuma, the five-time Grammy-winning record producer and veteran label executive, died Monday (March 13) in New York City after a brief illness. He was 80. 

LiPuma served in key positions at almost every major recording company, and led Verve Music Group as chairman from 1998 to 2004. His productions have resulted in more than 75 million albums sold and 33 Grammy nominations. 

Born Thomas LiPuma on July 5, 1936, the aspiring musician grew up in Cleveland and studied the saxophone at high school. He tried his hand as a barber before cutting to the music industry in an entry-level job packing records at a warehouse. 

LiPuma relocated to L.A. to work initially as a radio promoter for Liberty Records, and he would tackle roles in publishing, record labels and in production, skilling-up on the music business from the inside. In the 1960s, he worked for A&M, and was involved in the founding of Blue Thumb Records with partner Bob Krasnow. While at those labels he began overseeing demo sessions, which led to becoming a record producer, eventually handling the boards for records by such artist as Paul McCartney, Diana Krall, Barbra Streisand, Willie Nelson, Leon Russell, Miles Davis, Natalie Cole, George Benson, Al Jarreau, David Sanborn, Earl Klugh, Everything but the Girl, Peabo Bryson, Randy Newman, Miles Davis and Dr. John, among others. 

Later, he enjoyed stints with Horizon, and with Warner Bros. through the '80s. He presided over GRP and Impulse in the '90s and then became chairman of Verve when those labels were merged in. LiPuma served as chairman emeritus at Verge from 2004 through 2011 and in 2014 joined Universal Music Publishing Group as a creative consultant.

A music-maker until the end, LiPuma’s final production was his collaboration with Diana Krall on her 13th studio album, Turn Up the Quiet, engineered by Al Schmitt and set for release May 5 on Verve Records.

LiPuma is survived by his wife, Gill, daughters Jen Monti and Danielle Wiener, and grandchildren Matty, Julia, Chloe and Ava.