Keyboardist, producer Beckett dies in Tennessee

Fri Jun 12, 2009 3:02pm EDT
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NASHVILLE, Tennessee (Reuters) - Producer and keyboard player Barry Beckett, who recorded and accompanied singers Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, Bob Seger, Paul Simon and numerous country music stars, has died, his family said on Friday.

Beckett, 66, died at his Hendersonville, Tennessee, home on Wednesday, his family said. He had been diagnosed with cancer and suffered strokes, according to local media.

In the 1970s, Beckett began producing in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and played keyboards on albums by Simon, Seger and the Staple Singers as part of the famed rhythm section known as "The Swampers."

In Muscle Shoals, he recorded Dylan's album "Slow Train Coming," and Dire Straits' album "Communique." He appeared on such songs as Simon's "Kodachrome," Seger's "Mainstreet," the Staple Singers' "Respect Yourself," and Willie Nelson's "Bloody Mary Morning."

His first hit as producer came with the Sanford Townsend Band's "Smoke From a Distant Fire" and his first No. 1 record on the pop charts was Mary MacGregor's "Torn Between Two Lovers." Among the other artists he produced were Etta James, Tammy Wynette and rockers Elton John and Sting.

Beckett later was in demand among Nashville's country stars, and produced Kenny Chesney's first two albums.

(Reporting by Pat Harris and Andrew Stern; editing by Michael Conlon and Will Dunham)