Bruce Swedien, Grammy-Winning Audio Engineer of ‘Thriller,’ Dies at 86
Bruce Swedien, a five-time Grammy-winning audio engineer best known for his work on several Michael Jackson albums, died on Monday night. He was 86.
Swedien’s daughter, musician Roberta Swedien, shared the news via Facebook, writing: “My dad, Bruce Swedien, passed away peacefully last night, November 16th. He was 86. A legend in the music industry for over 65 years and 5-time Grammy winner, he was known for his work with Quincy Jones, Michael Jackson and many more. He had a long life full of love, great music, big boats and a beautiful marriage. We will celebrate that life. He was loved by everyone.”
Swedien was born on April 19, 1934 in Minneapolis, Minn. His parents were both classically-trained musicians, leading Swedien to develop a passion for music and recording at an early age. By his 21st birthday, Swedien was a professional audio engineer, working first for RCA Victor and then under Bill Putnam at Universal Recording Corporation. In 1962, Swedien worked on Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons’ “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” which brought him recognition.
At Universal, Swedien met Quincy Jones, and the two mixed the soundtrack for “The Wiz” together before beginning work on Michael Jackson’s 1979 debut album, “Off the Wall.” Swedien went on to collaborate with Jones on three more albums for Jackson, recording and mixing “Thriller,” “Bad” and “Dangerous.” Swedien won Grammys in the best engineered album, non-classical category for all three albums in 1984, 1988 and 1993, respectively. He also won in the same category for Jones’ albums “Back on the Block” and “Q’s Jook Joint.”
Beyond Jones and Jackson, Swedien worked with the likes of Duke Ellington, Herbie Hancock, Natalie Cole, Mick Jagger, David Hasselhoff, Jennifer Lopez, Paul McCartney, Diana Ross, Chaka Khan, Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer.
Jones paid tribute to Swedien in an Instagram post, writing: “I have always said it’s no accident that more than four decades later no matter where I go in the world, in every club, like clockwork at the witching hour you hear “Billie Jean,” “Beat It,” “Wanna Be Starting Something,” & “Thriller.” That was the sonic genius of Bruce Swedien, & to this day I can hear artists trying to replicate him. I’m going to miss your presence every single day.”