Ed Cherney, a Grammy and Emmy-winning engineer, who worked on such seminal albums as Bonnie Raitt’s Nick of Time, Eric Clapton’s Tears in Heaven, The Rolling Stones’ Bridges to Babylon, Willie Nelson’s My Way and hundreds more, died Tuesday (Oct. 22) from cancer. He was 69.
Other artists he worked with included Bob Dylan, Bette Midler, Elton John, Sting, Etta James, Bob Seger and Jackson Browne, among others.
Cherney, who worked out of Village Recorders in Los Angeles, was known for his quick-witted, jolly manner. He enjoyed a great conversation or golf game as much as finding the perfect sound.
After Cherney’s wife, former Record Plant head Rose Mann-Cherney, announced news of his death on Facebook Tuesday morning, tributes began pouring in from fellow engineers and producers, as well as artists like Slash and Jann Arden.
Cherney, who was nominated for six Grammys, snagged his first win in 1995 for best engineered album/non- classical for Raitt’s Longing in Their Hearts. That year, he engineered three of the five nominees in the category. He won again in 2003 for best traditional blues album for Buddy Guy’s Blues Singer and most recently in 2016 for the best traditional pop vocal album with Willie Nelson’s Summertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin. In 2015, he won an Emmy for HBO’s Bessie Smith film Bessie.
In an oral history celebrating the 30th anniversary of Raitt's Nick of Time, Cherney told Billboard about the precision required to get just the right sound, especially on "Thing Called Love." "It may have taken me five or fix times to nail the mix on that, because where it sounded great was on the head of a pin. It was that delicate." When the album went on to win album of the year at the 1990 Grammys, Cherney said, "It came out of nowhere — this was just a little record. No one was expecting that at all. I may have cried. I may have just broken down and cried."
Appropriately enough, his email address was "mixerdudeman". And fitting of his humility, on his website instead of tributes from the superstars he worked with, he had a quote from his dog, Archie: “Cherney is one of the great music engineers of all time. And then there’s bacon.”
His mantra, also on his website, best expressed his approach. Even though, by his own admission, he was obsessed with tech, he wrote: “Ultimately, mixing is about heart — nobody leaves a session dancing to what kind of gear you used.”
More to come.