Veteran record producer Joel Dorn, who worked with such artists as Roberta Flack, Max Roach and the Neville Brothers, died of a heart attack on Monday in New York. He was 65.
Dorn, a one-time disc-jockey at a Philadelphia jazz radio station, was perhaps best known for his work with Atlantic Records’ prestigious jazz stable between 1967 and 1974. Working alongside the label’s jazz chief, Nesuhi Ertegun, he brought a pop sensibility to works by musicians such as Roach, Herbie Mann, Les McCann and Eddie Harris, Mose Allison and Rahsaan Roland Kirk.
Dorn once said his two biggest influences were songwriting duo Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, and producer Phil Spector.
“To this day before I go in and make a record, I’ll throw on ‘Be My Baby’ or a Coasters record,” he said.
In the pop field, he helped set Bette Midler and Flack on the course to stardom, producing their debut albums. He and Flack won consecutive record of the year Grammys, for “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” (1972) and “Killing Me Softly With His Song” (1973).
“The recording industry has lost a true music lover and respected professional, and our deepest sympathies go out to his family, his friends and all who have benefited from his gift,” aid Neil Portnow, president/CEO of the Recording Academy.
He also ventured into rock with the Allman Brothers Band’s second release, 1970’s “Idlewild South,” and Don McLean’s 1974 album, “Homeless Brother.” (McLean was the inspiration for the songwriters of “Killing Me Softly…”)
Dorn “bridged the worlds of jazz and pop with enormous skill and grace, never compromising the integrity of his artists and their music,” said Edgar Bronfman, Jr., the chairman and chief executive of Atlantic’s Warner Music Group Inc parent.
Dorn left Atlantic in 1974, and worked for other labels’ acts, such as Leon Redbone, Lou Rawls and the Neville Brothers. His collaboration with the latter spawned their 1981 breakthrough “Fiyo on the Bayou.”
In his later years, he formed his own labels, and oversaw reissues of classic jazz albums for Columbia Records, Rhino Records and GRP Records. At the time of his death, he was a partner in the roots label Hyena Records, and was working on a five-disc tribute to his mentor, “Homage A Nesuhi.” He is survived by three sons.