Larry Levine, the recording engineer who provided the technical expertise behind Phil Spector's "Wall of Sound," passed on Thursday, which was his 80th birthday. He had suffered from emphysema.
Levine was born on May 8, 1928 in New York. He served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. Following the war his cousin Steve Ross, who owned Gold Star Recording Studios in Hollywood, taught him how to be a recording engineer.
Levine first worked with Phil Spector on the song "He's a Rebel" by The Crystals. Together they would work on some of the most legendary songs in the history of rock 'n' roll, including "Be My Baby" by The Ronettes, "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" by The Righteous Brothers, and "Da Do Ron Ron" by The Crystals. Levine created the Wall of Sound by using an echo chamber to make music performed by several musicians sound even larger. It was not atypical for a recording session to involve three to four guitars, a brass section, multiple pianos, and, of course, vocals.
In addition to Phil Spector, Larry Levine also worked with The Beach Boys, The Carpenters, Dr. John, Eddie Cochran, Sonny and Cher, and Wings. He won a Grammy for Best Engineered Record for his work on the 1965 hit "A Taste of Honey" by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass.
Larry Levine was one of the greatest recording engineers of all time. While it was Phil Spector who first envisioned the Wall of Sound, it was Larry Levine who had the knowledge to actually make it succeed. Both with and without Spector, the records that Levine engineered had a lush, full sound, a sense of dimension that many other records of the time could match. Levine was certainly an innovator in his field, and I doubt anyone will ever quite match him.