Musician Pays Homage to His Dad, Joel Dorn
LIANE HANSEN, host:
This past summer on our program, we introduced you to the music of Mocean Worker and the curiously retro yet modern sounds created by Adam Dorn.
(Soundbite of music)
HANSEN: When we visited his New York studio, he described the tremendous influence of his father, Joel Dorn, who once held the dream job of house producer for Atlantic Records. Joel Dorn passed away earlier this month at the age of 65. His son Adam Dorn sent this remembrance.
ADAM DORN: My brothers and I won life's equivalent of the Powerball lottery to have our father be Joel Dorn, a man who had a dream to become a record producer before the term had ever even been invented.
It all started when he heard Ray Charles on the radio on his grandmother's kitchen, and he just didn't know what to do. The music blew him away that much. He immediately contacted Nesuhi Ertegun at Atlantic Records - not even knowing what he wanted to get in touch with him about. He just knew that he wanted to work there. He was 14 years old at the time.
Nesuhi told him dozens of times he didn't have a job for him. He was constantly told no. He didn't care. He knew he'd get a job there. The straw that finally broke the camel's back was the fact that while in college at Temple University in Philadelphia, my father was the jazz DJ of WHAT-AM, and he broke many albums for the Atlantic Label. Nesuhi finally had to give in and hire my father.
(Soundbite of song, "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face")
Ms. ROBERTA FLACK (Singing): (Singer) The first time ever I saw your face…
DORN: My father signed and produced acts such as Roberta Flack, Bette Midler, Les McCann, Eddie Harris, Donny Hathaway, Yusef Lateef, Hank Crawford, Keith Jarrett, Rahsaan Roland Kirk and his childhood hero, David "Fathead" Newman.
(Soundbite of song, "Hard Times")
DORN: Fathead's song "Hard Times" had served as the theme for my father's radio show. My father consciously went back and signed Atlantic greats from the '50s who had fallen on some hard times, and he reinvented the label by going back to its roots.
The result was Atlantic's second and final golden age and resulted in many hit albums as a result of his convincing Nesuhi to look to the past to move into the future.
To this day, he is still the only producer - my father - to win the Grammy for record of the year two years in a row.
(Soundbite of song, "Compared To What?")
Mr. LES McCANN (Singer): (Singing) Church on Sunday sleep and nod. Trying to duck the wrath of god. Preachers filling us with fright. They all trying to teach us what they think is right. They really got to be some kind of nuts. I can't use it, trying to make it real compared to what. Where's that bee and where's that honey.
DORN: His work was wide and extremely varied. But his best work was as a father - what he called his life's real work. It was second to none. The awards - the golden platinum records which are now all lost, actually, or given away -didn't mean much to him. He would always say to me and my brothers, I don't care about any of that stuff. I only care about you guys. And he meant it. He only cared about us and the music. Everything else was tied for eighth, as he'd like to say.
My father's student and legendary record producer in his own right Hal Willner recounted a story to me about how when he introduced genius film director Federico Fellini to my father. My father, who idolized the director - my father didn't idolize many people, by the way. My father, after exchanging pleasantries, simply asked for an autograph from Fellini. He pulled out the first thing he could think of. Fellini signed my father's certified letter from the IRS stating that he owed back taxes. He then hung it on our wall. The back taxes sort of never got dealt with. But the letter was a cherished possession.
We love my father for that. My old man was never a good businessman. If he had 50 bucks, he would find a way to spend 51. If he had no money, he would still find a way to get a friend in need sort it out and make sure they were cool.
Earlier this month, with the day December 21st, my father loved December 21st, a day which most people state as being the first day of winter, the day of the year with the least amount of sunlight and an all-around gloomy day on the calendar.
My father always said - always - you know what today is, don't you? It's the first day of spring. That's just how he was. When the World Series was over and the final out had been made, he would always call me up no matter where I was and say, 93 days until pitchers and catchers.
That's just the type of guy my old man was. The glass was never half-empty. It was always half-full. No dream was ever not worth pursuing. The answer no didn't exist. He would always check in with us and ask, is everything cool? That was what he was always wanting to hear - that everything was cool.
Pop, you're gone now. And we're on a lot of pain. But you know what? Everything is cool, man. Everything is cool.
(Soundbite of music)
HANSEN: Adam Dorn is the son of music producer Joel Dorn who died December 17th.