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Barry Beckett, Muscle Shoals Keyboardist/Producer, Dead at 66

June 15, 2009 9:17 AM ET

Barry Beckett, a Muscle Shoals producer and keyboardist who worked with artists including Bob Dylan, Paul Simon and Phish, passed away on June 10th following complications from a stroke in Hendersonville, Tennessee, Billboard reports. He was 66. As a member of the famed Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, or the Swampers as they were called, Beckett was inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in 1995.

Beckett performed on songs like Paul Simon's "Kodachrome," Willie Nelson's "Bloody Mary Morning" and several tracks on Bob Seger's Night Moves album. Beckett was also part of Traffic's live band in 1973, appearing on the live album On the Road. In addition to his session and live work, Beckett had a long career as a producer, helming Bob Dylan's 1979 album Slow Train Coming and 1980's Saved, Phish's 1993 LP Rift, Dire Straits' Communique and a song on Elton John's Duets.

The first hit Beckett produced was the Sanford Townsend Band's "Smoke From a Distant Fire," and Beckett's first Number One was Mary MacGregor's "Torn Between Two Lovers." Later in his career, Beckett segued into country, producing Kenny Chesney's first two albums and Hank Williams Jr.'s Born to Boogie, which won the 1988 CMA Album of the Year award.

"He was the best boss I ever had and one of the greatest friends I ever had," friend and coworker Dick Cooper told Alabama's Times Daily. "He and [producer] Jerry Wexler taught me everything I know about the music industry." Swampers guitarist Jimmy Johnson added "Barry was one of the greatest keyboard players I ever worked with. Definitely, in our field, he was in the top five in the world. He's going to be missed."

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