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Jimmy Iovine feted by Grammy producers; praises Lana Del Rey

February 9, 2012 | 11:06 am

Those who only know Jimmy Iovine as an "American Idol" mentor, where his honest assessments and advice to aspiring superstars offer a valuable music biz context, might not have a clear picture of his influence on American popular culture over the last 40 years. Yes, he's head of Interscope Records, and has some of the most respected ears in the business, but what's the big deal?

On Wednesday night at the Village Recorder studios in West Hollywood, the Producers and Engineers wing of the Grammy Awards reminded everyone in attendance by screening a little documentary about Iovine and presenting him with their 2012 Recording Academy Presidents Merit Award.

Shown to a few hundred attendees of the annual Producers and Engineers party on one of the studio's large sound stages, the mini-doc captured video of Iovine throughout his career: in the studio with Bruce Springsteen recording "Born to Run," and the Pretenders, and Mary J. Blige; standing behind Stevie Nicks during a recording session; and running with Dr. Dre (with whom he founded the line of Beats by Dr. Dre headphones) and Eminem.

Even to those who understand where Iovine, 58, has been couldn't help but be a little stunned by his presence at such important points in recent American music history, one that continues through his work today with Lady Gaga, Black Eyed Peas, LMFAO, and two singer/songwriters who performed for the crowd: Skylar Grey and Lana Del Rey.

Grey's best known for her hook-writing abilities, and sang three of them on piano for the crowd before Iovine jumped onto the stage: Diddy Dirty Money's "Coming Home," Dr. Dre's "I Need a Doctor," and Eminem's "Love the Way You Lie." 

After being presented with his award -- and telling a funny story about Diddy one time advising him excitedly that "gifts work!" -- Iovine got straight to the point: He is most at home in the recording studio, and learned everything he needed to know about both professional and personal interactions on the other side of the glass from the artists.

"You really learned protocol," said Iovine, "and the hierarchy of records, and how records are made, and which side of the glass is really important. When you sit there and Stevie Nicks is singing and transports herself to another world, or Tom Petty, you say, 'OK, I can't do that.' But my life got better both professionally and personally with every one of these people that I met." 

Iovine told a story about trying to find the right sound for "Darkness on the Edge of Town," and in the process moved into the kind of engineering tech speak that not only proved his mettle in front of a room that understands -- criticizing a particular kind of tom-tom drum, trying to get a snare sound despite a technician "aligning the machines to CCIR curve" -- but confirmed that this is a man who understands the record business from top to bottom.

He then introduced his most recent musical enthusiasm, Lana Del Rey, a singer who has drawn her share of attention in the last few weeks, and whom Iovine described as having a sound unlike anything else on the radio right now. 

And with that, Iovine bid farewell and Lana walked onstage in a floor-length gown to perform "Video Games," which she did with piano accompaniment. Standing still and singing the song that made her famous, Del Rey offered an assured, determined take on the song.

Whether Iovine's instincts are right or not about his new young starlet, the evening certainly confirmed one thing: It's not a good idea to bet against him. 


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-- Randall Roberts

Photo: Jimmy Iovine in 2006. Credit: Béatrice de Géa / Los Angeles Times.