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Steve King, Grammy Award winning engineer and musician, dead at 56

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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A day after his death, Grammy Award-winning Detroit recording engineer and musician Steve King was being remembered for his keen ears and innate talent he demonstrated working with artists in a variety of musical genres.

The White Lake Township resident -- who passed away suddenly on Tuesday, June 3, at the age of 56, after a short illness -- shared a Grammy for Best Rap Album in 2003 for his work on "The Eminem Show" and also mixed the rapper's award-winning "Lose Yourself" from the "8 Mile" film soundtrack. Working primarily at 54 Sound in Ferndale and nicknamed "Dr. Ching," he once told Tapeop.com that, "I guess it's good to make money, but the stuff that really affects me is the stuff I put my heart into the hardest. And it's not really that commercial."

As a musician King played in Detroit bands such as the Pigs, the Traitors, Paper Hearts, the Boners, the Rushlow-King Combo and, most recently, with poetry ML Liebler in Coyote Monk. Behind the boards, meanwhile, his resume is dotted with notables such as Aretha Franklin -- his very first engineering session, for her "Jump To It" album in 1982 -- Patti Smith, Kem, George Clinton, the Romantics, the Winans, Sponge, Juan Atkins, Obie Trice, 50 Cent, Lloyd Banks, Hush, D12 and its individual members, King Gordy, His Name Is Alive, the Howling Diablos, Sonic's Rendezvous Band and many more.

"Steve was always cool under pressure," fellow Grammy Award winner and Detroit native Don Was said on Wednesday, June 4. "He carried himself with a sweet nature, positive spirit and profound humility that belied his incredible power as a soulful musician and inspired songwriter. His work made a major contribution towards defining the Detroit Sound over the last quarter century. Steve was a wonderful and irreplaceable cat and will be profoundly missed."

"Lose Yourself" co-writer Luis Resto, who worked with King for Eminem as well as on other projects, said that, "Steve was a very genuine, nice human being and good friend" and "the central hub of our team" in the studio. "When we -- (Eminem), Steve and I -- would be in the studio stuck with a technical snafu or creative Rubik's cube to figure out, it was often the calm clarity that Steve had that pushed us through to move forward and on to the next thing."

Liebler, who was putting together Beatles-themed concerts with King for some summer library shows said that Coyote Monk was in the process of recording an album. "He was so experienced that he could just, in one pass, tell us if somethign was right or not," Liebler noted. "And he was a really pleasant, kind person. Never got angry. He was really unique in that way."

Musician and producer Jake Bass noted on Facebook, "No one had the positivity, the heart and soul like Steve did. He taught so many of us musicians around Detroit and then some, not just how to make music 'sound' great but to make music 'feel' great. Steve was THE man."

Rapper Sean Forbes echoed that, "Steve had a profound impact on me. He was more than a mentor, more than just a friend, more than a guy I worked with. He was simply...the man." And veteran Detroit music impresario Freddie Brooks added that, "The alchemy of making a great record is often mysterious. You can put all the parts in place but it took the deft technical wizardry of Steve King to truly make these 'sing.' "

In addition to his studio work, King held an monthly open forum to talk about recording at the Black Lotus Brewery in Clawson. He also spoke about his craft and played music at schools and youth centers around the metro area. A graduate of Wayne State University and Northville High School, he also operated his own BCMI Entertainment and Audio Production companies.

King is survived by his wife, Roberta, and their son Nick. Arrangements are still being determined.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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