John Coltrane's "Giant Steps," Ray Charles's "What'd I Say," Ben E. King's "Stand By Me," Aretha Franklin's "Respect," Dusty Springfield's "Son of a Preacher Man," Derek and the Dominos' "Layla," Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird." And the atomic bomb. One man had a hand in all of them: Tom Dowd, record producer and engineer.
Not long out of high school, he worked on the Manhattan Project that developed the bombs dropped on Japan in 1945. The work was so secret that he could not reveal his expertise after the War, and so couldn't find any work as a physicist. So he became a recording engineer -- probably a simple job by comparison -- and went on to pioneer multitrack tape and to bring out amazing, natural performances from a wide range of artists. He died a few days ago, on October 27. I knew his name from liner notes, but never realized all he'd done until I read his obituaries. It's often that way.