Thriller audio engineer Bruce Swedien has died: Quincy Jones calls him “the best in the business”

Bruce Swedien
(Image credit: John Parra/WireImage)

Legendary audio engineer and producer Bruce Swedien has died at the age of 86. A statement from his daughter on Facebook confirmed that he passed away peacefully on 16 November.

Swedien was best known for his work with Quincy Jones, serving as recording engineer on Michael Jackson’s seminal Off The Wall, Thriller and Bad albums. 

Speaking to Future Music in 2009 about this period of his career, Swedien said: "With Michael, there weren't any difficult tracks to mix. Working with Michael and Quincy is easy as pie. They are so musical - and the passion for quality that we share has made working on these projects - especially Thriller - very easy."

Born in Minneapolis, Swedien decided on a career in music recording at the age of 10, when his father gave him a disc recording machine for his birthday. He spent his teenage years learning his trade, eventually setting up his own studio in an old movie theatre.

In 1957, Swedien moved to Chicago, working for RCA Victor recording studios, before moving on to Universal Recording Studios. Here, he recorded jazz greats such as Count Basie, Stan Kenton, Duke Ellington, Woody Herman, Oscar Peterson, Sarah Vaughn and Dinah Washington, striking up his relationship with Quincy Jones in the process.

Following news Swedien’s death, Jones wrote on Instagram: “I am absolutely devastated to learn the news that we lost my dear brother-in-arms, the legendary Bruce Swedien. There are not enough words to express how much Bruce meant to me… He was without question the absolute best engineer in the business, and for more than 70 years I wouldn’t even think about going into a recording session unless I knew Bruce was behind the board.”

Ben Rogerson

I’m the Deputy Editor of MusicRadar, having worked on the site since its launch in 2007. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 24 of which I’ve also spent writing about music and the ever-changing technology used to make it. 

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