Legendary audio engineer and Michael Jackson collaborator Bruce Swedien has died. His daughter, musician Roberta Swedien, shared on Facebook that the renowned recordist died last night (November 16). “He had a long life full of love, great music, big boats and a beautiful marriage,” she wrote. “We will celebrate that life. He was loved by everyone.” He was 86 years old.
Born to a pair of classically trained musicians, Swedien leapt into recording from an early age. By age 21, he was working and recording professionally, first for RCA Victor and then eventually under recording pioneer Bill Putnam at Universal Recording. During that time, Swedien recorded artists like Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and Dinah Washington. It was also during that time that he first came into touch with a then-up-and-coming producer named Quincy Jones, who asked him to collaborate with him on Michael Jackson’s debut album Off the Wall after they worked on the soundtrack for The Wiz together.
Swedien recorded and mixed Off the Wall, Thriller, Bad, and Dangerous, becoming a close collaborator to both Jones and Jackson in the process. “There are not enough words to express how much Bruce meant to me,” Jones wrote in a tribute posted to Instagram. “ 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 “Svensk”, but I will cherish every moment we shared together laughin’, lovin’, livin’, & givin’… Rest In Peace my brother.”