Don Was

Last updated

Don Was
Don Was - AMA Nashville 2010 - Ron Baker.JPG
Don Was – Americana Music Association showcase – Nashville, TN (2010)
Background information
Birth nameDon Fagenson
Born (1952-09-13) September 13, 1952 (age 66)
Origin Detroit, Michigan, US
GenresRock, new wave
Occupation(s)Musician, Record Producer, Record Executive
InstrumentsBass guitar, guitar, vocals, piano
Years active1971–present
Associated acts Was (Not Was)
Orquestra Was Bob Dylan, Rolling Stones, Bonnie Raitt, John Mayer, Bob Weir and Wolf Bros

Don Edward Fagenson (born September 13, 1952), known as Don Was, is an American musician, record producer and record executive. Primarily a bass player, Was co-founded the funk-rock band Was (Not Was). In later years he produced songs and albums for many popular recording artists. In 2012, he became president of jazz music label Blue Note Records.

Musician person who performs or composes music

A musician is a person who plays a musical instrument or is musically talented. Anyone who composes, conducts, or performs music is referred to as a musician. A musician who plays a musical instrument is also known as an instrumentalist.

Record producer Individual who oversees and manages the recording of an artists music

A record producer or music producer oversees and manages the sound recording and production of a band or performer's music, which may range from recording one song to recording a lengthy concept album. A producer has many, varying roles during the recording process. They may gather musical ideas for the project, collaborate with the artists to select cover tunes or original songs by the artist/group, work with artists and help them to improve their songs, lyrics or arrangements.

The bass guitar is a plucked string instrument similar in appearance and construction to an electric or an acoustic guitar, except with a longer neck and scale length, and typically four to six strings or courses.


Life and career

Born in Detroit, Michigan, [1] Was graduated from Oak Park High School in the Detroit suburb of Oak Park, then attended the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor but dropped out after the first year. A journeyman musician, he grew up listening to the Detroit blues sound and the jazz music of John Coltrane and Miles Davis, amongst many others. As a teenager, Was was further influenced by the 60s counterculture, most notably John Sinclair.

Oak Park High School is a public high school located in Oak Park, Michigan an inner suburb of Detroit. The school is part of the Oak Park School district. It serves about 1,130 students in grades 10 to 12 from Oak Park and surrounding communities around Detroit.

University of Michigan Public research university in Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States

The University of Michigan, often simply referred to as Michigan, is a public research university in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The university is Michigan's oldest; it was founded in 1817 in Detroit, as the Catholepistemiad, or University of Michigania, 20 years before the territory became a state. The school was moved to Ann Arbor in 1837 onto 40 acres (16 ha) of what is now known as Central Campus. Since its establishment in Ann Arbor, the university campus has expanded to include more than 584 major buildings with a combined area of more than 34 million gross square feet spread out over a Central Campus and North Campus, two regional campuses in Flint and Dearborn, and a Center in Detroit. The university is a founding member of the Association of American Universities.

Ann Arbor, Michigan City in Michigan, United States

Ann Arbor is a city in the U.S. state of Michigan and the county seat of Washtenaw County. The 2010 census recorded its population to be 113,934.

In high school, Was was the lead singer and guitar player in a Detroit rock band called the Saturns.

The first recording project that he engineered and produced was in 1971 with drummer Muruga Booker on a recording called Rama Rama / Endless Path. [2]

Muruga Booker American musician

Steven Bookvich known as Muruga Booker is an American drummer, composer, inventor, artist, recording artist, and an autonomous Orthodox priest.

Using the stage name "Don Was", he formed the group Was (Not Was) with school friend David Weiss (David Was). The group found commercial success in the 1980s – releasing four albums and logging several hit records. Their biggest hit was "Walk the Dinosaur", off of their album What up, Dog? A jazz/R&B album of Hank Williams covers, "Forever's A Long, Long Time" was released in 1997, under the name Orquestra Was. [3] In 2008, Was (Not Was) reunited for an acclaimed new album titled Boo! and tour.

Was is an American pop rock group founded by David Weiss and Don Fagenson, who adopted the stage names David Was and Don Was. They gained popularity in the 1980s and early 1990s.

David Jay Weiss, known as David Was, is an American musician. With his stage-brother Don Was, he was the founder of the 1980s pop group Was.

Was has received four Grammy Awards including the 1994 Grammy Award for Producer of the Year. [4] [5] He produced several albums for Bonnie Raitt including her Nick of Time album that won the 1989 Grammy Award for Album of the Year. [4] Don also collaborated with co-producer Ziggy Marley, on Family Time, winner of 2009's Best Musical Album For Children. [4] He produced the Rolling Stones 2016 album Blue and Lonesome, which won the Grammy for Best Traditional Blues album.

The Grammy Award for Producer of the Year, Non-Classical is an honor presented to remixers for quality remixed recordings at the Grammy Awards, a ceremony that was established in 1958 and originally called the Gramophone Awards. Honors in several categories are presented at the ceremony annually by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences of the United States to "honor artistic achievement, technical proficiency and overall excellence in the recording industry, without regard to album sales or chart position".

Bonnie Raitt Blues singer-songwriter and slide guitar player from the United States

Bonnie Lynn Raitt is an American blues singer, guitarist, songwriter, and activist.

<i>Nick of Time</i> (album) 1989 studio album by Bonnie Raitt

Nick of Time is the 10th album by the American singer Bonnie Raitt, released on March 21, 1989.

He served as music director and/or consultant for several motion pictures such as Thelma and Louise , The Rainmaker , Hope Floats , Phenomenon , Tin Cup , Honeymoon in Vegas , 8 Seconds , Switch , The Freshman , Days of Thunder , Michael , Prêt-à-Porter , Boys on the Side , Toy Story and The Paper .

<i>The Rainmaker</i> (1997 film) 1997 film by Francis Ford Coppola

The Rainmaker is a 1997 American legal drama film based on John Grisham's 1995 novel of the same name, and written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola. It stars Matt Damon, Danny DeVito, Danny Glover, Claire Danes, Jon Voight, Roy Scheider, Mickey Rourke, Virginia Madsen, Mary Kay Place and Teresa Wright in her final film role.

<i>Hope Floats</i> 1998 film by Forest Whitaker

Hope Floats is a 1998 American drama film directed by Forest Whitaker and starring Sandra Bullock, Harry Connick Jr., and Gena Rowlands.

<i>Phenomenon</i> (film) 1996 film by Jon Turteltaub

Phenomenon is a 1996 American romantic fantasy drama film directed by Jon Turteltaub, written by Gerald Di Pego, and starring John Travolta, Kyra Sedgwick, Forest Whitaker, Robert Duvall, and Jeffrey DeMunn.

In 1995, he directed and produced a documentary, I Just Wasn't Made for These Times , about former Beach Boy Brian Wilson. The film debuted at the Sundance Film Festival and won the San Francisco Film Festival's Golden Gate Award. He also received the British Academy Award (BAFTA) for Best Original Score in recognition of his compositions for the film Backbeat .

Was, who is a fan of the Rolling Stones and saw them in concert when he was age 12 in 1964, produced their albums Voodoo Lounge, Stripped, Bridges to Babylon, Forty Licks, Live Licks, A Bigger Bang and Blue & Lonesome. He also worked on the Rolling Stones's reissues Exile on Main Street , released in May 2010 and Some Girls released in October 2011. Was scoured old master recordings of the albums for lost gems, remastering some songs while producing entirely new vocals and tracks on others. [6]

Was also produced the B-52's 1989 album Cosmic Thing , which included their smash hit "Love Shack".

Since 2008, Was has hosted the proceedings (and led the house band) at the Detroit All-Star Revue, an annual showcase of local acts from the Detroit music scene. [7]

From 2009 to 2012, Don hosted a weekly radio show on Sirius XM satellite radio's Outlaw Country channel called The Motor City Hayride. [8] During the 2011 season of American Idol, Was appeared in several episodes producing contestants Haley Reinhart, Scotty McCreery, Paul McDonald, Lauren Alaina and Casey Abrams.

In January 2012, he was appointed president of the jazz record label, Blue Note Records in succession to Bruce Lundvall. [9]

He won the 2014 Emmy Award for Outstanding Music Direction for his work on the CBS TV special "The Beatles: The Night That Changed America."

On November 18, 2015, at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington DC, he led the house band that performed at a concert celebrating Willie Nelson, recipient of the 2015 Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. [10]

In 2018, Was joined former Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir and drummer Jay Lane to form Bob Weir & Wolf Bros, a trio which undertook a North American tour in the Fall of 2018 [11] , and continued with a second tour of twenty more shows in the Spring of 2019. [12]

Personal life

Don Was is the father of three sons who are also musicians; Tony, who plays in Eve 6, Henry plays in Thumpasaurus, and Justin Jay's Fantastic Voyage, and Solomon who has played in Leven Kali, and Felly. Don is married to former Virgin Records A&R executive and video director Gemma Corfield, and is the brother of Dr. Nancy Fagenson Potok, Chief Statistician of the United States of America, who is also former Principal Associate Director and Chief Financial Officer of the US Census Bureau and Deputy Undersecretary for Economic Affairs at the US Department of Commerce.

Selected discography

Related Research Articles

Ziggy Marley Jamaican musician

David Nesta "Ziggy" Marley is a Jamaican musician and leader of the band Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers, and the son of reggae icon Bob Marley and Rita Marley.

<i>Conscious Party</i> 1988 studio album by Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers

Conscious Party is Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers' third album. It was released in 1988. This album became popular with the hits "Tumblin' Down" and "Tomorrow People". It won the Grammy Award for Best Reggae album in 1989.

Brendan O'Brien is a record producer, mixer, engineer, and musician. He has worked with such artists as Stone Temple Pilots, The Wallflowers, Pearl Jam, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, AC/DC, Aerosmith, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Zucchero Fornaciari, Soundgarden, Audioslave, Rage Against the Machine, The Black Crowes, Incubus, Train, The Killers, Seether, Kansas, King's X, The Offspring, Korn, The Fray, Wolfmother, Gaslight Anthem, Mastodon, Third Day, Lifehouse, Pantera, and My Chemical Romance.

John Hiatt born 1952; American rock guitarist, pianist, singer, and songwriter

John Robert Hiatt is an American singer-songwriter and musician. He has played a variety of musical styles on his albums, including new wave, blues, and country. Hiatt has been nominated for nine Grammy Awards and has been awarded a variety of other distinctions in the music industry. He remains one of the most respected and influential American singer-songwriters.

<i>Streetlights</i> (Bonnie Raitt album) 1974 studio album by Bonnie Raitt

Streetlights is the fourth album by Bonnie Raitt, released in 1974.

<i>Luck of the Draw</i> (album) 1991 studio album by Bonnie Raitt

Luck of the Draw is the eleventh album by Bonnie Raitt, released in 1991.

<i>Longing in Their Hearts</i> 1994 studio album by Bonnie Raitt

Longing in Their Hearts is the twelfth album by Bonnie Raitt, released in 1994. The album contained the mainstream pop hit, "Love Sneakin' Up On You," which reached #19 on the Billboard singles chart, and "You", which remains to date her only UK Top 40 hit, peaking at No. 31.

<i>Road Tested</i> 1995 live album by Bonnie Raitt

Road Tested is a live album by Bonnie Raitt, released in 1995.

<i>Fundamental</i> (Bonnie Raitt album) album by Bonnie Raitt

Fundamental is the thirteenth album by Bonnie Raitt, released in 1998.

<i>The Healer</i> (album) 1989 studio album by John Lee Hooker

The Healer is a blues album by John Lee Hooker, released in 1989. The album features collaborations with Bonnie Raitt, Charlie Musselwhite, Los Lobos and Carlos Santana, among others. The Healer peaked at number 62 on the Billboard 200 and "I'm in the Mood" won the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Performance. Produced by Roy Rogers of the Delta Rhythm Kings, and executive produced by Mike Kappus, the album had such success that it "permitted John Lee Hooker to live out the end of his life in comfort".

<i>Deuces Wild</i> (B.B. King album) 1997 studio album by B.B. King

Deuces Wild is the thirty fifth studio album by B.B. King released on November 4, 1997. Every song on the album features a second famous musician.

<i>Across the Borderline</i> 1993 studio album by Willie Nelson

Across the Borderline is the fortieth studio album by Willie Nelson. It was produced by Don Was, Paul Simon, and Roy Halee. It includes songs written by Paul Simon, Ry Cooder, John Hiatt, Peter Gabriel, Bob Dylan, Lyle Lovett, and Nelson himself. Featured performers include David Crosby, Kris Kristofferson, Sinéad O'Connor, Bonnie Raitt, Bob Dylan, and Paul Simon.

James Hutchinson (musician) American musician

James "Hutch" Hutchinson (born January 24, 1953)is an American session bassist best known for his work with Bonnie Raitt.Though his work takes him nearly everywhere he primarily resides in Studio City, Los Angeles, CA and Haiku-Pauwela, Hawaii.

Rob Fraboni Audio Engineer

Rob Fraboni is a California-born record producer and audio engineer well known for his work with Bob Dylan, The Band, Eric Clapton, The Rolling Stones, Tim Hardin, The Beach Boys, Joe Cocker, and Bonnie Raitt, and as Vice President at Island Records where he oversaw the remastering of the entire Bob Marley catalog. He produced the soundtrack on Martin Scorsese's groundbreaking concert movie, The Last Waltz, which included an all-star cast of famous rock and roll performers. He built and designed the legendary Shangri-La studios in Malibu to the specification of Bob Dylan and the Band. Referred to as a "genius" by Keith Richards in his bestselling autobiography Life.

<i>Slipstream</i> (Bonnie Raitt album) 2012 studio album by Bonnie Raitt

Slipstream is the sixteenth studio album by Bonnie Raitt, released in April 2012. American Songwriter Magazine praised it as "her best album in years and one of the best of her 40-year career."

<i>Fly Rasta</i> 2014 studio album by Ziggy Marley

Fly Rasta is the fifth solo studio album by Jamaican reggae artist Ziggy Marley, released on April 15, 2014, on Ziggy's own label, Tuff Gong Worldwide. The album marked Ziggy's return after the Grammy-winning album Ziggy Marley in Concert.

Doug Sax American mastering engineer

Doug Sax was an American mastering engineer from Los Angeles, California. He mastered three of The Doors' albums, including their 1967 debut; six of Pink Floyd's albums, including The Wall; Ray Charles' multiple-Grammy winner Genius Loves Company in 2004, and Bob Dylan's 36th studio album Shadows in the Night in 2015.

<i>One for the Road</i> (Willie Nelson and Leon Russell album) 1979 album by Willie Nelson and Leon Russell

One for the Road is an album by singers and songwriters Willie Nelson and Leon Russell, produced by the pair. The album was first released as a double vinyl LP by Columbia Records. The album was recorded in Leon's new facility, Paradise Studios in Burbank, California. The album peaked at No. 25 on the US Billboard 200 chart, No. 3 on US country albums chart, No. 28 on the Canada albums chart, No. 1 on the Canada country albums chart and No. 11 on the New Zealand albums chart. The album has gold certification for sales of over 500,000 albums in the US and Canada.


  1. "Don Was – Biography". Allmusic . Retrieved March 29, 2014.
  2. Muruga - Rama Rama / Endless Path on Bandcamp
  3. "Don Was Biography". Musician Guide. Retrieved March 29, 2014.
  4. 1 2 3 "Grammy Award Past Winners Search – Don Was". Retrieved March 29, 2014.
  5. Harrington, Richard (August 26, 1995). "Brian Wilson's Sensational Safari". The Washington Post . p. D.01. Retrieved January 25, 2010.
  6. Don Was Revisits 'Exile On Main Street' National Public Radio United States May 16, 2010
  7. DeVito, Lee (July 8, 2015). "Get Your Mojo Working". Detroit Metro Times . Euclid Media. 35 (39): 58. Retrieved September 3, 2015.
  8. "Don Was Joins Sirius XM for Show". Retrieved March 29, 2014.
  9. Chinen, Nate (May 2, 2012). "Exuberance Is Just One of His Skills". The New York Times . Retrieved May 4, 2012.
  10. Thanki, Juli (November 18, 2015). "Willie Nelson saluted by Alison Krauss, Jamey Johnson, more". The Tennessean . Retrieved November 19, 2015.
  11. "Bob Weir & Wolf Bros. Announce Fall Tour". Retrieved November 2, 2018.
  12. "Bob Weir & Wolf Bros Confirm Spring Tour 2019". Retrieved March 22, 2019.