Don DeVito, who worked as a producer and A&R executive at Columbia for forty years, died of prostate cancer on November 25th. He was 72. DeVito worked with Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, the Byrds, Aerosmith and countless other Columbia acts, but he’s perhaps best remembered for producing Bob Dylan‘s 1976 LP Desire and its follow-up, 1978’s Street Legal. (Contrary to multiple reports, DeVito did not produce Blood on the Tracks.)
DeVito began his tenure at CBS when he joined the Executive Training Program in 1967. He was placed in the sports division but soon transferred to CBS Records, where he worked as the Local Promotion and Artist Relations representative in Miami. In 1971 – soon after CBS became Columbia Records – DeVito moved to New York to work in the marketing department. He was instrumental in bringing Dylan back to the label in 1974 after the singer worked briefly with Geffen. DeVito later went into the studio with Dylan to record Desire.
The album, featuring classics including “Hurricane,” “Isis” and “Romance in Durango,” was a huge success with fans and critics. They were less kind to Street Legal, which was hobbled by an extremely muddy mix. In 1999, DeVito remixed and remastered the disc, bringing out much of the richness and depth of the original recordings. The album has become a cult favorite among Dylan fanatics.
DeVito won a Best Traditional Folk Recording Grammy in 1989 for the tribute disc Folkways – A Vision Shared: A Tribute To Woody Guthrie & Leadbelly. In 2001, he played a key role in organizing The Concert For New York City 9/11 tribute at Madison Square Garden. DeVito retired from Sony Music in 2007.
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