Columbia Records executive Don DeVito dies

November 29, 2011 - 8:25 AM

NEW YORK (AP) — Don DeVito, a longtime Columbia Records executive who produced the key Bob Dylan albums "Blood on the Tracks" and "Desire" and also worked with artists including Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel and Aerosmith, has died. He was 72.

DeVito died Friday after a 16-year battle with prostate cancer, according to a statement released by Columbia on Monday.

The Brooklyn, N.Y.-born DeVito spent his entire career at Columbia; he started off as a trainee at CBS Records, which would later become Columbia. From there, he would grow into one of the label's most influential executives and producers, helping to create albums that would become a part of rock 'n' roll history.

Among those recordings were Dylan's "Blood on the Tracks," which marked Dylan's return to Columbia after a stint with Asylum Records. "Blood on the Tracks" is considered one of his greatest albums, and included songs such as "Tangled Up in Blue."

DeVito also produced "Desire," released the next year, and also rated as one of Dylan's best. The album includes the seminal recording "Hurricane," about the incarceration of boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, and was Dylan's first platinum disc. DeVito also is credited as a producer on Dylan albums "Hard Rain," ''Street Legal" and "At Budokan."

DeVito also worked with Joel, Springsteen, James Taylor, Simon and Garfunkel, Janis Joplin, and others.

DeVito started off as a guitarist touring for Al Kooper, and had his own band, The Sabres, which later broke up mid-tour. According to Columbia, DeVito was stranded in Fort Smith, Ark., when he happened to meet Johnny Cash and developed what would become a lifelong friendship; Cash would later introduce DeVito to Dylan.

DeVito won a Grammy in 1989 for his work on "Folkways — A Vision Shared: A Tribute to Woody Guthrie & Leadbelly." He also helped organize "The Concert for New York City," the all-star benefit event staged after the Sept. 11 attacks.

DeVito retired four years ago. He is survived by wife Carolyn and two children, Marissa and James.