Acclaimed record producer Keith Olsen has died.
Though he may best be remembered for his work alongside Fleetwood Mac, the prolific music veteran teamed with a long list of artists over the course of his career, contributing to many legendary releases including Whitesnake’s 1987 self-titled album and Ozzy Osbourne’s No Rest For The Wicked. Olsen’s age and cause of death have not been revealed.
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Born in Sioux Falls, S.D., Olsen cut his teeth in the Minneapolis music scene. He collaborated with a variety of acts from the area, eventually becoming the bass player for the Music Machine, a group best-known for their 1966 hit “Talk Talk.”
By the late ‘60s, Olsen relocated to Los Angeles, eventually becoming an engineer at the iconic Sound City Studios. “I had enough electronic training in college to know what’s going on underneath the desk, enough musical training to know what should be going on top of the desk and on the other side of the glass,” the producer would later recall. “And then these opportunities to go start working with some bands started coming in.”
The first of those opportunities came with a couple of fledgling musicians, Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham. Olsen produced the duo’s self-titled 1973 LP, noting how special the artists sounded together. “There was a timbre that happened when the two voices would join that was unique,” Olsen explained. “You never heard that before. And I don’t think you’ve heard it since. Those two voices sing like that and sound like that for a reason-they were meant to sing together.”
In 1974, Mick Fleetwood chose Sound City to record the next Fleetwood Mac album. While visiting the studio, Olsen played Fleetwood a track from the Buckingham Nicks LP. “He put on a song called ‘Frozen Love’ from the Buckingham Nicks album, just to demonstrate his own prowess in the studio, and what the studio sounded like,” Buckingham recalled. “So Mick is sitting there listening to this song, and uh, one thing led to another and Stevie and I, very shortly, were members of the band.”
Olsen would go on to produce Fleetwood Mac’s 1975 self-titled LP. The album, featuring such classic hits as “Rhiannon,” “Say You Love Me” and “Landslide” would hit No. 1 on the Billboard chart, eventually selling more than seven million copies in the U.S..
Fleetwood Mac’s massive success opened doors for Olsen, making him one of the most in-demand producers in music. Over the ensuing years, he’d work with a bevy of vaunted artists, including Heart, Whitesnake, Santana, Rick Springfield, REO Speedwagon, Ozzy Osbourne, Bad Company, Joe Walsh and Jethro Tull.
Notable releases among Olsen’s impressive resume´ include the Grateful Dead’s Terrapin Station (1977), Foreigner’s Double Vision (1978), Pat Benatar’s Crimes of Passion (1980), Sammy Hagar’s Three Lock Box(1982), Osbourne’s No Rest for the Wicked (1988) and Whitesnake’s self-titled 1987 album, which featured the smash hits “Here I Go Again” and “Still of the Night.”
According to his website, Olsen produced more than 120 albums in total, with 24 earning platinum certification or better. The site goes on to note that “sales from Keith Olsen’s work exceeds 125 million units at retail, equaling more than a billion dollars in business.” The producer also earned six Grammy awards over the course of his career.