Richard Perry was the most renowned producer in the field of popular music during the 1970s -- his mere involvement with a recording project was enough to engender a mention in the music trade papers and even the popular music press, and the array of gold- and platinum-selling albums with which he was associated made his name synonymous with success. Perry was born in Brooklyn, NY, in 1942, and developed an interest in rock music as a teenager that led him to perform with several local groups during the late '50s and early '60s, among them the Legends and later the Escorts; the latter outfit subsequently came to include Goldie (aka Goldie Zelkowitz), later of Goldie & the Gingerbreads (and even later known as Genya Ravan) as their lead singer. Perry attended the University of Michigan and, after returning to New York, began working as a songwriter in partnership with Kenny Vance, of Jay & the Americans. During 1965, he became associated with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller when he went to work for George Goldner's Red Bird Records. Though the label didn't last too much longer than that, Perry found his niche in music as a producer growing out of his experience there.
Beginning in 1967, with projects such as Safe As Milk by Captain Beefheart at Buddah Records, and albums such as Fats Domino's Fats Is Back (a huge critical favorite if not ever a hit), Holy Mackerel's self-titled LP (both for Reprise Records), and Anders & Poncia's self-titled album for Warner Bros., he began making a name for himself as a producer -- his first actual hit album came in the form of God Bless Tiny Tim, the debut LP by the late-'60s novelty singing phenomenon Tiny Tim. By the dawn of the 1970s, Perry had moved up to working with such artists as Johnny Mathis, Harry Nilsson, Barbra Streisand, Carly Simon, and Art Garfunkel. Simon's No Secrets has proved a particularly durable example of Perry's work as a producer, not only a perennially popular release on vinyl and CD but also successful as reissue on DVD-Audio in 2001. The mid-'70s saw him working with such artists as Diana Ross, the Manhattan Transfer, and Leo Sayer, but his most widely publicized project during this period -- and perhaps of Perry's whole career -- was the Ringo album by Ringo Starr. The ex-Beatle had enjoyed a pair of hit singles during the early '70s, but he had yet to succeed with an album release, which was essential not only to establishing his credibility as an artist, but also securing him financially; with Perry as producer, the Ringo album became a massive hit, helped in no small way by Perry's ability to create a musically substantial album out of what could just as easily have been an all-star studio schmooze-fest. The highlight was getting the other three ex-Beatles to participate (the closest to a Beatles reunion that ever took place) and to deliver up finished songs that could carry that weight. Having helped to turn Ringo Starr into a chart-topping artist, and following it up with a strong album in Goodnight Vienna, Perry had proved he had a golden touch, and unimpeachable commercial and musical instincts.
During 1978, Perry started is own label, Planet Records, which became home to the work of the Pointer Sisters, Night, the Cretones, Single Bullet Theory, Billy Thermal, Bates Motel, Full Swing, American Noise, the Plimsouls, Mark Saffan & the Keepers, the Cretones, and Bill Medley. He sold the company to RCA in 1983, but has remained one of the busiest producers in the business, working with artists such as Julio Iglesias, Rod Stewart, and Syreeta while continuing to work with Streisand and the Pointer Sisters. Although harder (and very different) sounds have tended to dominate pop and rock music in the years since Perry was the hot young wunderkind of the music business, he remains a formidable name and talent in his sixties. Additionally, many of the records that he produced during the 1970s remain among the steadiest and biggest-selling catalog items in the recording industry of the 21st century. ~ Bruce Eder
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