Phil Ramone, the producer who worked with such varied acts as Frank Sinatra, Billy Joel, and Ray Charles, died Saturday (March 30) in New York at the age of 79.

Ramone, a native of South Africa but raised in Brooklyn, had been a presence in the music industry since the 1960s. His work was not only prolific but also well respected, earning him 14 Grammy awards and even more nominations. He collaborated with artists of all genres, from Liza Minnelli to Sinead O’Connor and Paul McCartney. He is perhaps best remembered as being responsible for staging duets of unexpected artists, such as Sinatra and Bono of U2, a practice that stems back to his work as an engineer on the 1965 album Getz/Gilberto, a collaboration between Stan Getz and João Gillberto.

Ramone had an especially close working relationship with Joel and is featured on the back cover of his 1977 album The Stranger. Joel was one of the first artists to release a statement this past Saturday, saying, “I always thought of Phil Ramone as the most talented guy in my band. He was the guy that no one ever, ever saw onstage. He was with me as long as any of the musicians I ever played with — longer than most. So much of my music was shaped by him and brought to fruition by him.”

Other artists, such as McCartney, Barbra Streisand and Bette Midler have responded in length or via Twitter. A common thread seems to focus on not only Ramone’s talent, but also his kindness.

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