Joe Tarsia Dies "The Man Who Was The Sound of Philadelphia"
(November 2, 2022)
This may be one of the hardest tributes for me to write but it may also be one of the most important, necessary and well deserved.
If you were born in and lived in the studio world like I and so many others were, you see an entire sub terrain culture living unseen by the majority of the world.
It was this band of marauders, freaks outcasts, of which I am a card carrying member, whose methods of communication would be gibberish to most of you but was literally Music To Our Ears. We discussed, sound and the capture of it, how ti fix things that were done incorrectly and make some recorded poorly be restored to its full and intended sound.
We looked a bathrooms, hallways, rugs rolled as tubes to capture unique sounds and before pzm microphones, we miked walls for the reflected sounds bouncing off of them in the studio. What we did to capture the lightning in the bottle, the moments of brilliance and the actual music was so important and integral to the sound and recording of it that without those conversations, in pig Latin to most, there would be no music worthy of listening to an no artists who would be created.
I say all of the because one of the GREATEST Engineers and Studio Owners and musicians in the world has left us and there will Never be another like him or ever close.
Receiving a few gold or platinum records is a bid deal in our industry but this man accumulated over 150 of them!!
Being involved in a few hits is a noteworthy accomplishment but how about thousands and I mean thousands of them, all memorable and worth of note. He along with Gamble and Huff in his Studio, Sigma Sound, in Philly came up with the foundations that launched Philadelphia International Records and defined what would become the most recognizable sound outside of Motown for generations, the Sound of Philly.
He recorded a whose who of iconic acts such as Jerry Butler, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, the O'Jays, the Stylistics, Stevie Wonder, B.B. King, David Bowie, and the Four Tops. When he opened his Sigma Sound flagship studio brand in New York, he attracted even more such as Whitney Houston, Madonna, Billy Joel, Steely Dan, Ashford and Simpson, Paul Simon and Engineers such as Gene Leone Mix, Jay Mark, the late Michael Hutchinson and Mixer/Producers as my friends Tom Moulton, Jellybean, Shep Pettibone and myself to name a small few.
We have sadly suffered an incalculable loss one of internal behind the scenes genius, most gentle soul and cherished pillars of out industry and a recording genius and master, a sansei of sorts who gave his all to all he came in contact with regardless of our background or means. To him, only talent mattered and that is what made him so great and his colleagues and followers so in awe of him.
On November 2nd, the world of music went silent in tribute to a man who lead by example and always raised his own bar of excellence and expectation for himself before he required it of others. Joe Tarsia, the co-creator of the Sound of Philly has passed away at the age of 88 and his replacement will never be found, as his position was much too far reaching in scope and ability.
So while some may say the Sound of Philly has now passed on, I say it's really the SOUL OF PHILLY which has passed away as well.
Joe Tarsia, dead at 88! RIP Joe and please educate the angels on getting a better sound when they sing their hymns in Heaven.
Extract From Soul Tracks:
"(November 2, 2022) He was often called the man who “was the Sound of Philadelphia,” for his key role in establishing the lush, soulful sound of the 1970s and 80s that came to be associated with the City of Brotherly Love. Today we mourn the passing of legendary recording engineer, Joe Tarsia."
Tarsia was an integral part of literally dozens of all-time pop and soul hits. He was the founder and owner of the iconic Sigma Sound Studios, where so many Philadelphia International Records #1 smashes by the O'Jays, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, Patti LaBelle and more were recorded. Known for its clarity of sound, Sigma, with Tarsia on the boards, gave a new gravitas to soul music. As the great Tom Moulton (who posted an obituary on Facebook) said, “Joe gave Soul music the tuxedos to wear when the Philadelphia Sound was being created.”
Tarsia began as a service technician for recording studios before becoming lead engineer at Philly’s fames Cameo Parkway Records in the early 1960s. He took that knowledge to open Sigma by the end of the decade, turning it into the “go to” studio for not only the PIR artists, but other pop and soul acts. He ultimately opened another location in New York City, which catered to such East Coast stars as Whitney Houston and Paul Simon.
As the new millennium arose, Tarsia sold his studios and cut back on his recording and lecturing. He was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame in 2016.
Joe Tarsia quietly changed the musical world in ways not fully understood by general music fans, but certainly appreciated by all who have enjoyed the cornucopia of great songs on which he worked.