[JPL] Joel Dorn, Record Producer, Dies at 65

r durfee rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com
Wed Dec 19 11:14:18 EST 2007

December 19, 2007
Joel Dorn, Record Producer, Dies at 65 
Joel Dorn, who, having achieved his adolescent
ambition of becoming a producer for Atlantic Records,
went on to influence the shape of pop music in the
work of artists like Roberta Flack, Bette Midler and
the Neville Brothers, died on Monday in Manhattan. He
was 65.

The cause was a heart attack, said a spokesman for
Hyena Records, the last of a string of record
companies where Mr. Dorn produced.

Mr. Dorn’s career included recording jazz greats like
Max Roach and Herbie Mann, then discovering and
shaping pop musicians like the Allman Brothers. He
infused pop music with soul and jazz and helped win a
number of Grammy Awards for Atlantic, then built a
distinctive career with other companies, some of which
he founded, by repackaging older releases and
unearthing unknown recordings from private collections
and elsewhere.

He claimed to be guided by intuition, saying in an
interview with The Philadelphia City Paper in 1997: “A
bell goes off in your stomach when you see or hear
something that grabs you.” 

Mr. Dorn was born in Yeadon, Pa., on April 7, 1942.
Growing up in Philadelphia, he learned to love music
from the radio his parents kept on to hear news about
World War II. He developed a taste for Ray Charles,
the Drifters and other artists recorded by Atlantic.
By his account, he was 14 when, hoping to join the
company, he began writing to Nesuhi Ertegun, who
founded Atlantic with his brother, Ahmet. In an
interview with Luxury Experience magazine this year,
Mr. Dorn characterized the correspondence as “blind
ambition.” He did not say whether Mr. Ertegun

In his early 20s Mr. Dorn worked as a disc jockey for
WHAT-FM in Philadelphia at a time when that station
was noted for serious jazz. He had fallen in love with
the station at 15 while working at a factory, he told
National Public Radio in 1998.

In the mid-1960s, Nesuhi Ertegun heard Mr. Dorn on the
radio and offered him a chance to produce “The Laws of
Jazz,” a record featuring Hubert Laws as band leader.
He soon hired Mr. Dorn to produce other jazz records
and made him a vice president.

Record producers are analogous to movie directors,
controlling recording, mixing and mastering, among
other things. Mr. Dorn strove to allow musicians
maximum freedom in recording sessions. Whether this
approach brought out the best in artists like Rahsaan
Roland Kirk, Les McCann and Eddie Harris, the results
incontrovertibly drew positive notice from fans and

Mr. Dorn’s production helped win two Grammys in 1973
for Robert Flack’s hit “The First Time Ever I Saw Your
Face,” and three Grammys in 1974 for her “Killing Me
Softly With His Song.” 

Among popular albums he produced were Bette Midler’s
“Divine Miss M”; the Allman Brothers’ “Idlewild
South”; Leon Redbone’s “On the Track”; and the Neville
Brothers’ “Fiyo on the Bayou.”

Mr. Dorn is survived by his companion, Faye Rosen, and
his sons: Michael, of Philadelphia, Adam, of
Manhattan, and David, of Los Angeles.

Like many producers, Mr. Dorn expanded in
entrepreneurial directions after leaving Atlantic in
1974. He worked on a freelance basis for Capitol,
Warner Brothers, Columbia, Epic, A&M and Arista,
Billboard magazine reported. In the late 1980s he
began specializing in repackaging back catalogs for
Atlantic, Rhino and other labels.

He founded or helped found several labels, including
Night, 32 Records and Hyena, and used these to record
music originally taped for radio or personal purposes.
He went to great lengths to hunt down some of this

“I heard a rumor that a radio station in Newark was
throwing out a rare tape library,” he said in an
interview with the Florida newspaper The St.
Petersburg Times in 1991. “So I hustled over there. I
keep a pair of coveralls in the car so when I’m
snooping around I can look like a workman.

“I rooted around and found two Dr. John tapes about an
hour and a half before they picked the trash up.”


Roy Durfee
P.O. Box 40219
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87196-0219
rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com

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