I would guess that the names of most Grammy Award winners would be widely recognized by the public. Yet many musicians, producers, songwriters and other folks honored by The Recording Academy over the years are lesser known.
Even Larry Butler, who belonged to a couple of popular rock bands in the 1960s and went on to win Grammies as a songwriter and music producer, didn’t land in the national headlines when he died Jan. 20 at age 69.
Butler was a member of the 60's hit group, Ronny and the Daytonas, whose hits included Little GTO and later joined another top rock group, The Gentry's, whose hits included Keep On Dancing, according to the obituary published in the Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal.
He won a Grammy Award for co-writing the 1975 Song of the Year, (Hey, Won't you Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song. In 1979 he won a Grammy Award for Producer of the Year, the only Nashville producer to ever win the award.
His obit pointed out that when Hurricane Ivan devastated the Florida and Alabama Gulf Coast in September 2004, Larry called upon friends like Kenny Rogers, Willie Nelson and Will Hedgecock, producing three sold-out concerts that brought more than half a million dollars into the community for rebuilding efforts.
Andrew Kazdin was described simply as a Grammy award winning Classical Music Producer, Composer, Publisher, Arranger, Author and creative force in the music industry in the family-prepared obit published in the New York Times after he died Nov. 28 at age 77.
The announcement of his death on the Grammy website says Kazdin earned 17 GRAMMY nominations throughout his career, including six for Best Classical Album and three for the prestigious Producer of The Year, Classical award. Kazdin's first GRAMMY win came in 1981 for Best Engineered Recording, Classical, for “Isaac Stern 60th Anniversary Celebration.” He earned the Best Opera Recording GRAMMY the following year for “Wagner: Der Ring Des Nibelungen.”
Steve Popovich, who died June 8 at age 68, received six Grammy nominations (winner of 2) for label and/or co-producer, and First Polka Grammy Award Winner with Frank Yankovic, per the family-prepared obit in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
He founded Cleveland International Records which is most famous for Meat Loaf's Bat Out of Hell which has sold over 40 million copies worldwide.
Plain Dealer reporter and well-known Cleveland musician John Petkovic wrote an entertaining and informative story about Popovich, just some slob from Cleveland, who sued the high-powered Sony Music corporation, for failing to put Cleveland International Records logos on Meatloaf’s album.
Dana Townson, who died of complications from pancreatic cancer Dec. 21 at age 49, was an audio engineer and recording studio owner, and her Texas studios, Castle Audio and Alley Cat Productions, recorded many Grammy Award-winning musicians, according to the family-prepared obit published in the Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat And Chronicle.***
Her talent for technology led to an extremely successful career as an Apple certified hardware and software specialist, and she was one of the first women in the world to work in this capacity, the obit said.
Whether making her legendary BBQ or saving someone's digital life, Dana brought tremendous passion and love to everything she did and everyone she met.
Martin Sauser, who died Dec. 19 at age 88, played a key role in recruiting talented musicians to the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, when he was the orchestra’s personnel manager, according to the family-placed death notice in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Sauser had played violin with the ASO from 1951 to 1988, served as concertmaster from 1957 to 1974 and personnel manager from 1968 to 1982.
During his career the ASO played its first Carnegie Hall concert (1971) and received its first Grammy award (1986).
This post was contributed by Alana Baranick, a freelance obituary writer. She is the director of the Society of Professional Obituary Writers and chief author of Life on the Death Beat: A Handbook for Obituary Writers.