Elliot Mazer, Who Produced Neil Young's 'Harvest,' Dies at 79
Mazer also worked on albums by Gordon Lightfoot, Linda Ronstadt, the Band and more
Published Feb 09, 2021Elliot Mazer — an American producer and engineer who worked on albums by Neil Young, Linda Ronstadt, Gordon Lightfoot, Bob Dylan, the Band and more — has died. Mazer's daughter Alison confirmed the producer's death today, Rolling Stone reports, adding that the cause was a heart attack after years of battling dementia. He was 79.
Mazer is best known for his relationship with Young, which began with him producing the Canadian icon's celebrated 1971 album Harvest. He would go on to produce 1973 live album Time Fades Away, the previously shelved Homegrown, 1983's Everybody's Rockin', 1985's Old Ways and 2019 archival live set Tuscaloosa.
Born on September 5th, 1941, in New York City, Mazer and his family moved to New Jersey shortly after his birth. His industry career began at age 21, organizing tapes and delivering LPs for Prestige Records. From there, he took a job at Philadelphia independent label Cameo-Parkway, laying the foundation for his work on pop records in the late '60s and early '70s.
February 1971 saw Mazer invite Young to his newly-opened Quadrafonic Sound Studio (now Quad Studios Nashville) in hopes of convincing him to record a new album the facility. As outlined in Jimmy McDonough Young biography, Shakey, Mazer had become familiar with the Canadian thanks to a friend's obsession with 1970's After the Gold Rush.
Admiring the work of Nashville's session players, Young tasked Mazer with finding him a bass player, drummer and pedal steel guitarist to record with. The producer recruited drummer Kenny Buttrey, bassist Tim Drummond and pedal steel-guitarist Ben Keith — the last of whom would record with Young for nearly 40 years.
"We all knew there was something very special going on," Mazer told McDonough of Harvest. "Looking back, I don't really think I felt at ease with him, even though we spent hours and hours in the studio. The serious amount of pain he was in and his mood shifts — greatly controlled by drugs — kept everybody at a distance."
Other Canadians to cross paths with the producer included Gordon Lightfoot and Ian & Sylvia. The former had Mazer helm his 1968 studio album Back Here on Earth and 1969 live set Sunday Concert, while the latter duo enlisted him to produce their 1968 effort Full Circle. Mazer also lent his engineering talents tothe Band's Scorsese-produced concert film The Last Waltz.
"Elliot loved music," his sister, Bonnie Murray, told Rolling Stone. "He loved what he did; he was a perfectionist. Everybody has so much respect for him, and he's been suffering for a couple years."