Stu Levitan talks with Ben Sidran about his latest book, The Ballad of Tommy LiPuma, the legendary and beloved record producer and executive.
When Tommy LiPuma was 16 years old, he was still in the eighth grade, and got an F in music. His future seemed ordained – he would become a barber in Cleveland, like his Sicilian immigrant father. When Tommy was not quite 40, he won the Grammy Award for producing the record of the year, George Benson’s version of “This Masquerade,” on his triple-Platinum album, “Breezin’.”
By the time Tommy retired in 2013, he would win four more Grammy’s, for albums he produced by Natalie Cole, Diana Krall and Sir Paul McCartney; the 150 or so albums he produced would sell close to 80 million copies, with 35 albums going gold or platinum. From cutting hair to cutting hit records, as producer and top executive for half-a-dozen labels. Only in America.
One of the musicians who saw LiPuma up-close in the studio, and even closer after hours, was Madison’s own Ben Sidran. Although he was never produced by LiPuma, Ben did release three albums in the seventies on the record label LiPuma helped found, Blue Thumb, and one on Tommy’s own Horizon label. And he got to experience the joy of hanging with Tommy for five decades.
It has been said of Ben Sidran that he makes your average Renaissance man look like a slacker. Jazz pianist of international renown, lyricist of the rock classic Space Cowboy, award-winning national broadcaster, record and video producer, scholar, journalist, author, he is a music and media jack-of-all-trades and master of them all. Ben’s previous books include There Was A Fire: Jews, Music and the American Dream, in 2012.
He published his memoir, “A Life in the Music,” in 2003, may need to update it. In 1992, Jazz Talk: An Illustrated Oral History, a collection of 50 directed conversations with such jazz luminaries as Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins and so on. And way back in 1971, “Black Talk: How the Music of Black America Created A Radical Alternative to the Values of Western Cultural Tradition” And if you think that subtitle has a slightly academic tone, you are right. Before it was a book, it was Ben’s doctoral thesis for his Ph D in American Studies from the University of Sussex, England. That’s right, he really is Dr. Jazz. For more, bensidran.com