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