Welcome to ISC HiFi. Explore new records daily from our growing collection of classics and rarities from around the world. Discover the stories behind the records. Experience the ISC listening space from home through our (( ROOM RECORDING )) audio player below.

“To hear more, say less.”

Our website uses cookies
Read our privacy policy.

I Agree

Henry Lewy: The Unknown Producer Behind Joni Mitchell, Judee Sill, and Batteaux

Written By: 
DM
Tags: 
Share:
  •  

A look into the producer/engineer behind classics like Joni Mitchell’s Blue and Judee Sill’s Heart Food.

We’ve touched on Henry Lewy’s work in the past, but even then we didn’t fully connect the dots between these landmark records and this little-known shadow figure behind them. A full feature documentary on Lewy entitled The Man Behind the Music has been in the works for a few years now and awaiting funding. The film documents an elusive musical powerhouse with a harrowing past. Lewy narrowly escaped Nazi Germany by leaving the country on the eve of Hitler’s 1939 invasion of Poland, was drafted after Pearl Harbor and did multiple tours during WWII. After surviving the chaos, he wound up in sunny Southern California and eventually studied under Lou Adler and produced some of the ‘70s best. 

Henry Lewy with Mickey Dolenz of the Monkees

Lewy engineered almost every record on A&M in the early days, working with David Crosby, Mamas & the Papas, the Monkees, Joe Cocker, Sergio Mendes and Burt Bacharach, to name a few. Propelling the breezy folk sound of Laurel Canyon, Lewy played a part in the rise of the singer-songwriter movement while pushing the genre into ethereal jazz-infused territories via his 14 album partnership with Joni Mitchell. 

Below, some production highlights from Lewy’s prolific and varied career.

Flying Burrito Brothers – The Gilded Palace of Sin, Deluxe (1969)

Shortly after his first solo producing credit on John Braden’s debut in ‘69, he produced the first two now classic albums by The Flying Burrito Brothers. The Bakersfield-inspired country rock group propelled Gram Parsons’ career. Here’s the final song on “Burrito Deluxe,” a cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses.” 

Neil Young – The Needle and the Damage Done (1972)

Although it may be just a live take that Neil didn’t feel like re-recording, it’s worth noting Lewy produced this bonafide Young classic and is his sole production credit on the worshipped 1972 album Harvest. He was also responsible for recording Neil’s landmark “Live at the Cellar Door” performance.

Judee Sill – Heart Food (1972)

Lewy produced both Judee’s incredible self-titled debut as well as her follow-up — and unfortunately, final — record, Heart Food. Lewy was said to be a little overwhelmed by Sill’s insistence on an insane amount of overdubs on Heart Food, but the end result is gorgeous. You can hear his lush, ethereal approach, especially on the standout “Kiss.” It’s a sneak peek at the misty production techniques he’d further develop with Joni.

Batteaux – Batteaux (1973)

Although it didn’t see the success of any of the other albums listed here, Batteaux is a long-treasured and notoriously under appreciated 70’s underground folk-funk classi — a perfect mix of Balearic, blue-eyed soul and Lewy’s west coast folk sound. A precursor to the popular AOR styles of the later ’70s, it features highlights like “High Tide,” “Tell Her She’s Lovely” and the heavenly ballad “Living’s Worth Loving.”

Paul Horn – Visions (1974)

He’s most known for his guitar-based projects, but Lewy first started working in music through jazz. His first instrument was the french horn, and his first gig was at Downbeat magazine. A publication dedicated to “Jazz, Blues, and Beyond,” the influential magazine afforded him friendships with stars like Louis Armstrong. One of the few jazz albums he worked on as a head producer was Paul Horn’s Visions, which also features an instrumental jazz cover of the Batteaux cut mentioned above, “High Tide.”

Henry Lewy with Leonard Cohen

Leanord Cohen – Recent Songs (1979)

Recovering from the mayhem that was “Death of a Ladies Man,” where Leanord was at peak debauchery and a consistently drunk Phil Spector pointed a loaded gun at him between takes, Cohen decided he needed a more accommodating producer for his next go-round. According to Cohen, Lewy helped Cohen “return to form.”

Henry Lewy with Joni Mitchell

Joni Mitchell – Blue, Clouds, Court and Spark, The Hissing of Summer Lawns, Hejira

Van Morrison, Cohen and Mitchell have each noted Lewy’s most crucial trait: He could make the studio feel like magic — a hospitable environment in which he digs for “the soul and essence” of the artist and the song. 

If you’d like to follow Lewy’s bloom as a producer, it can easily be found through the work of Joni’s definitive years displayed throughout their albums together, starting with 1969’s Clouds and ending in 1985 with Dog Eat Dog.

Lewy recorded Joni without her knowing it for “Big Yellow Taxi.” Having just written the classic song, Joni wanted to rehearse it and play it to Lewy in the studio, and he stealthily hit record. The final mix is a little obscured by the overdubs, but you can feel a sense of casualness in her vocals and guitar playing. It’s completely candid–  and we have those sweet giggles at the end.

Lewy says of Joni: “What I love about her is that she never sits still for a second. She’s always moving forward. She grows with every album, which is, ironically, one of the things that turns some fans off. They get used to her doing one thing, and then she changes. She soaks in things constantly. She has a real appetite for new ideas.”

And in turn, Joni spoke of Lewy in the same 1979 interview: “There’s more than a working relationship, there’s a sense of passion, there’s a sense of heart, and there’s a sense of the sensation.”

Related Articles

Sort By
12th Isle
2020
33rpm
45rpm
4AD
5 Selects
7"
99 Records
A&M
Abbey Lincoln
Aboriginal
Abstract
Ace Tone
Acid Archives
Acid Folk
Acid House
Acid Punk
Acoustic
Adrian Sherwood
Africa
African
Afro
Afro-Cuban
Afrobeat
Alan Ginsberg
Alan Greenberg
Alan Thicke
Albert Ayler
Alice Coltrane
Amazon Music
Ambient
Amoeba Music
Amplifier
Analog
Anatolian Rock
Andy Warhol
Animation
AOR
Aquarium Drunkard
Archie Shepp
Archival
Art
Art & Design
Art Dudley
Art Film
Art Pop
Art Rock
Artform Radio
Arthur Russell
Article
Ash Ra Temple
Audiogon
Audiophile
avant
Avant-Garde
Avant-pop
Avant-Rock
Balearic
Bargain Bin
Baroque Pop
Basquiat
Bauhaus
Bayou Funk
BBC
BBC Radiophonic
Beats in Space
Bebop
Belgium
Bennie Maupin
Berlin-school
Best of 2020
Beverly Glenn​-​Copeland
Bhutan Stamps
Big Band
Bill Laswell
Black Jazz
Blaxsploitation
Blue Note
Blues
Blues Rock
Bob Marley
Bola Sete
Boogie
books
Boredoms
Bossa
Bossa Nova
Brazil
Brazilian Folk
Breakbeat
Breezy
Brian Eno
Bruce Weber
Bruton Music
Buddhism
Cabaret
Calypso
CAN
Cape Verde
Caribbean
Cartridges
Casio
Cassette
Cats
CD
Channel One Studios
Chanson
Charles Lloyd
Charles Mingus
Chee Shimizu
Chet Baker
Chicago
Choral
City Pop
Classical
Coctueau Twins
Compass Point
Compilation
Condesa Electronics
Conny Plank
Contemporary Jazz
Cornelius
Cosmic
Cosmic Disco
Cosmic Folk
Country-Rock
Covers
Cult Classic
Cumbia
Daft Punk
Dance
Dancehall
Dark
Dark Entries
David Bowie
David Byrne
Davida
Deep Dive
Deep Listening
Delia Derbyshire
Demo
Dennis Bovell
Denon
Detroit
Devotional
Dick Verdult
Diggin in the Mags
Disco
Discogs
DIY
DIY / Amateur
DJ
Documentary
Don Buchla
Don Cherry
Donald Byrd
Doom Metal
Downtempo
Dr. John
Dream House
Dream Pop
Dreamy
Drone
Drum Break
Drum Machine
Drum n Bass
Drums
Dub
dublab
Dubwise
Durutti Column
Düsseldorf School
Eames
Earl King
Early Electronic
East African
ECM
Electric Lady
Electro
Electronic
Electronica
Elegant Pop
Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam
Enossified
Environmental Music
Eric Dolphy
ESG
Esoteric
ESP Institute
Essential Listening
Essential Listenning
Ethereal
Ethiopian Jazz
Ethnic
Event
Events
Exotica
Experimental
Factory Records
Fela Kuti
Field recording
Films
Fingertracks
Fishing with John
Fleetwood Sound Company
Floating
Floating Points
Folk
Folk-Rock
Fonts
Fourth World
France
Free Improvisation
Free Jazz
Friends of ISC
Funk
Fusion
G.S. Schray
Gal Costa
Garage Rock
Garrard
George Martin
Gilberto Gil
Gospel
Grado
Graphic Novel
Group Sounds
Guide
Guitar
Hard Bop
Harold Budd
Harry Nilsson
Haruomi Hosono
Heavy Metal
Henry Lewy
Herbie Hancock
hi-fi
hi-NRG
Hidden Gem
Highlife
Hip Hop
Hiroshi Yoshimura
history
Holger Czukay
Holiday
Hollywood
Holy Grail
Home Listening
House
Hypnotic
Iasos
IDM
Illustration
Improvisation
In Conversation
India
Indie
Indie Rock
Industrial
Ingmar Bergman
instock
Instrumental
International
Interview
ISC Classic
ISC Collection
isc guide
ISC Record Store
ISC Selects
Island Records
Isolation
Italy
Jackie McLean
Jamaica
James Baldwin
Japanese
Jazz
jazz kissa
Jazz-funk
Jazz-rock
JBL
John Fahey
John Martyn
Jon Hassell
Joni Mitchell
Judee Sill
K. Leimer
Kankyo Ongaku
Keith Haring
Keith Jarrett
Kid-Friendly
Kitty Records
Klaus Schulze
Klipsch
Kompakt
Kosmiche
Kosmische
KPM
Kraftwerk
Krautrock
L.Shankar
La Monte Young
Labels We Love
Lafawndah
Laraaji
Larry Levan
Last Resort
Laswell
Latin
Latin Jazz
Laurel Canyon
Laurie Spiegel
Leaving Records
Lebanese
Lee Scratch Perry
Left-field
Leftfield
Lena Horne
Les Baxter
Lester Bowie
Library
Library Music
Liquid Liquid
Listening bar
Live Performance
Live Recording
Los Angeles
Lost & Sound
lost and sound
Louisiana Blues
Lounge
Lounge Lizards
Love Songs
Lovefingers
Lovely Music Ltd.
Lovers Rock
Luaka Bop
Mad Professor
Marantz
Marcel Duchamp
Marcos Valle
McIntosh
Meditation
Meditative
Melancholic
Mellow
Melody As Truth
Meredith Monk
Metal
Michael Franks
Mid-Century
Miles Davis
Milford Graves
Mills College
Minako Yoshida
Minimal
Minneapolis Sound
Mixes
Mizell Brothers
Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs
Modal
Modern Classical
Moki Cherry
Mono
Mort Garson
Motown
MPB
MTV
Munich
Music Blog
Music from Memory
Music Interior
Music Therapy
Music Video
Mwandishi
Narrative
Neptunes
Neuehouse
New Age
New Music
New Wave
News
Nico
Nina Simone
No Wave
Noise
Northern Soul
Now Sound
NTS
Nubian Pop
Nubian Soul
Numero Group
OBI
Obscure
Obscure Sound
On Screen
On-U Sound
online radio
Organic
Organic Music
Ornette Coleman
Ortofon
Oswalds Mill Audio
Outsider Pop
Overtone Singing
Painting
Painting with John
Pandit Pran Nath
Paradise Garage
Pastoral
Patrick Cowley
Paul Horn
Paul McCartney
Pauline Oliveros
PBS
Penguin Cafe Orchestra
Pensive
Percussion
Pharoah Sanders
Phillip Glass
Piano
Pioneer
Plantasia
Plants
playlist
Playlists
Plinth
Political
Pop
Pop Rock
Popul Vuh
Post Bop
Post Rock
Post-Punk
Power Pop
Premiere
Prince
Private Press
Productions
Professor Longhair
Prog Rock
Progressive
Progressive Rock
Prophet-5
Psychedelic
Psychedelic Rock
Psyhedelic
Punk
Qobuz
Quadraphonic
QUARK
R&B
Radio
Rare Groove
rca victor
Receivers
Record Stores
Record Stories
Reggae
Reissue
Reissues
Releases
Remix
Rock
Rocksteady
Roland
Roland Kirk
Room Recordings
Room Treatment
Roots Reggae
Rotary Mixers
Rough Trade
Ryuichi Sakamoto
Ryuichi Sakmoto
Sade
Sam Gendel
Samba
Samples
Sci-fi
Séance Centre
Seefeel
Sensual
Shamisen
Shibuya-kei
Shoegaze
Singer-Songwriter
Sisters with Transistors
Sly & Robbie
Smooth Jazz
Soft Rock
Solid State
Songwriting
Sonny Sharrock
Soul
Soul-jazz
Sound Collage
Soundsystems
Soundtrack
South African
South America
speakers
Spiritual
Spiritual Jazz
Spoken Word
Staff Picks
Steely Dan
Stereolab
Stereophile
Steven Halpern
Stoner Rock
stores we love
Streaming
Street Soul
Sun Ra
Sunn O)))
Surround Sound
Susumu Yokota
Suzanne Cianni
Suzanne Kraft
SYNG
Synth
Synth Pop
Synth-pop
Synthesizer
Synthwave
Taarab
Takoma Records
Tangerine Dream
Tape
Tapes
TD-160
Techno
Techno Pop
Television
Terry Callier
Terry Riley
The Beatles
The Broad
The Meters
The Mizell Brothers
The Music Center
The World Stage
Thelonious Monk
Third Side Music
Third Stream
This Mortal Coil
Thorens
Tim Sweeney
Too Pure Records
Total Luxury Spa
Traditional
Trip-hop
Tropical
Tropicalia
Tube
Turntable
TV
Underrated
Val Wilmer
Vanity Fair
Velvet Underground
Vice
Video
Vince Guaraldi
Vintage
Vintage Gear
vinyl
Virginia Astley
Visible Cloaks
Visual Art
Vocal
Vocoder
Walearic
Wally Badarou
Water
Website
Werner Herzog
West Africa
West African
Windham Hill
World
Yacht Rock
Yasuaki Shimizu
Yellow Magic Orchestra
Yma Sumac
YouTube
Zamrock
Zither
ISCHiFi ((ROOM RECORDING))
0:00 / 0:00
0:00
0:00