September 13, 1952: Producer Don Was (Is) Born

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DonWasHere articleA man of many musical achievements was birthed Donald Fagenson on this day in 1952 in the Detroit suburb Oak Park, MI. He and his hometown pal David Weiss started the band Was (Not Was) and took on “Was” as their stage surnames. They released their first self-titled album in 1983, creating dance music that splices rock, soul, jazz, beatnik spirit and modern wit and features a fascinating range of guest stars, by 1987 they score a #7 hit on the Hot 100 with “Walk the Dinosaur.”

He then made his mark as a producer with Bonnie Raitt’s 1989 comeback LP Nick of Time, which won the Album of the Year Grammy. He built a producer discography of classic rock works that stands up there with the best of them: several albums by the Rolling Stones–including their well-received 2016 LP, Blue & Lonesome–alongside work with Bob Dylan, Elton John, Brian Wilson, Van Morrison, Ringo Starr, John Mayer, Roy Orbison to name but a few. Another Grammy winning LP – Best Musical Album For Children – in 2009 with Ziggy Marley, Family Time.

Through 2021, Was has received 11 Grammy Award nominations, winning five including one for Producer of the Year.

He’s also said to be working on the Stones’ next studio album. In a Sept. 8, 2020, interview, Keith Richards talked about its status during the pandemic, “I’m gonna do a little bit of work on it with Don Was, our producer, next month, just to prod things along a little bit.”

Was also music supervised a number of major feature films, directed and produced the Brian Wison documentary, I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times, and won a BAFTA award (the U.K. Oscar) for Best Original Score for his compositions in the early Beatles biopic Backbeat. He also hosted a SiriusXM radio show, appeared as a producer on American Idol, and kept ties with his old stomping grounds by hosting and leading the house band at the annual Detroit All-Star Revue.

He was appointed president of Blue Note Records in 2012. He’s participating in The Last Waltz 2022 tour in the fall. We do have to wonder when the guy sleeps.

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