Daniel Lanois

On this day in 1951, Daniel Lanois, one of rock's most distinctive and respected

producers, was born in Hull, Quebec. The French-Canadian has built an unparalleled

career by putting his atmospheric production stamp on records by such artists as Bob

Dylan, Luscious Jackson, Peter Gabriel and U2.

Lanois' mother was a singer and both his father and grandfather played the fiddle. After

his parents separated, Lanois and his mother relocated to English-speaking Hamilton,

Ontario, where he leaned to play guitar. With his brother Robert, Lanois began to record

music at home, graduating to a four-track machine in 1970 in a recording studio they

built in their laundry room. The Lanois brothers charged local bands $60 to record.

From these humble origins, the Lanois brothers' reputation as producers, arrangers and

songwriters grew rapidly. By the end of the '70s, they were happily ensconced in a large,

new facility, the Grant Avenue Studios. After producing a variety of artists, including

children's favorite Raffi, Daniel Lanois hooked up with legendary experimental

producer/composer Brian Eno, who became Lanois' mentor and collaborator on

instrumental, ambient music.

Lanois also continued to produce on his own, working with improvisational guitarist Jon

Hassell, among others. Lanois reunited with Eno in 1983 on Apollo: Atmospheres &

Soundtracks. The duo's collaborations over the next few years included 1984's

The Pearl, an album with Harold Budd, and Hybrid (1985), with guitarist

Michael Brook.

Lanois' career really gained momentum when Eno brought him aboard to co-produce

U2's The Unforgettable Fire (1984) album. After U2's LP became a hit, Peter

Gabriel asked Lanois to co-produce the soundtrack to the movie "Birdy." But it was

Lanois' production of Gabriel's breakthrough album, So (1986), that sent him to

the top tier of the rock-producer list -- a position he cemented with his co-production (with

Eno) of U2's Grammy-winning 1987 album, The Joshua Tree.

The mammoth success of Lanois' second venture with U2 led him to produce Robbie

Robertson's successful, eponymous solo debut (1987). Next, Lanois helmed Bob

Dylan's Oh Mercy (1989), the only album of the decade by the legendary

folk-rocker that many critics deemed as approaching the level of his past work.

Also in 1989, Lanois helped the New Orleans-based Neville Brothers reach creative

heights with Yellow Moon. Lanois soon moved to Louisiana, establishing

Kingsway Studios in the heart of Crescent City. In this huge studio, Lanois created his

own solo debut as a singer/songwriter, Acadie (1989). Lanois later reconnected

with U2 for the lauded Achtung Baby (1991) and re-teamed with Gabriel for the

English rocker's Us (1992).

Lanois' second solo album, 1993's For the Beauty of Wynona, was acclaimed by

critics but sold poorly. He soldiered on, producing a number of other artists' albums, most

notably country-rocker Emmylou Harris' 1995 masterpiece, Wrecking Ball.

In 1996, Lanois recorded the score to the Academy Award-winning film "Sling Blade." He

also tried his producing hand with a younger act, hip-hop rockers Luscious Jackson, on

that same year's Fever In, Fever Out. His reputation reached new heights when

he resurrected Dylan's recording career with Time Out of Mind, which won the

1997 Grammy award for Album of the Year.

Lanois recently produced country legend Willie Nelson's Teatro, jazz drummer

Brian Blade's Brian Blade Fellowship and is reportedly working on another solo

record.

Lanois' mesmerizing, atmospheric, signature sound has assured him a place in rock's

history books.

Other birthdays: Nick Massi (Four Seasons), 63; Bill Medley (Righteous Brothers), 58;

Freda Payne, 53; Lol Creme (10cc, Godley and Creme), 51; Nile Rodgers (Chic), 46; and

Brook Benton, 1931-1988.