Don Edward Fagenson (born September 13, 1952), known as Don Was, is an American musician, record producer and record executive. Primarily a bass player, Was led the 1980s funk rock band Was (Not Was). In later years he produced songs and albums for a large number of popular recording artists. In 2012, he became president of jazz music label Blue Note Records.
Life and career
Born in Detroit, Michigan, Was graduated from Oak Park High School in the Detroit suburb of Oak Park, then attended the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor but dropped out after the first year. A journeyman musician, he grew up listening to the Detroit blues sound and the jazz music of John Coltrane and Miles Davis.
Using the stage name "Don Was", he formed the group Was (Not Was) with school friend David Weiss (David Was). The group found commercial success in the 1980s – releasing four albums and logging several hit records. A jazz/R&B album of Hank Williams covers, "Forever's A Long, Long Time" was released in 1997, under the name Orquestra Was. In 2008, Was (Not Was) reunited for an acclaimed new album and tour.
Was has received three Grammy Awards including the 1994 Grammy Award for Producer of the Year. He produced several albums for Bonnie Raitt including her Nick of Time album that won the 1989 Grammy Award for Album of the Year. Don also collaborated with co-producer Ziggy Marley, on Family Time, winner of 2009's Best Musical Album For Children.
He served as music director and/or consultant for several motion pictures such as Thelma and Louise, The Rainmaker, Hope Floats, Phenomenon, Tin Cup, Honeymoon in Vegas, 8 Seconds, Switch, The Freshman, Days of Thunder, Michael, Prêt-à-Porter, Boys on the Side, Toy Story and The Paper.
In 1997, he directed and produced a documentary, I Just Wasn't Made for These Times, about former Beach Boy Brian Wilson. The film debuted at the Sundance Film Festival and won the San Francisco Film Festival's Golden Gate Award. He also received the British Academy Award (BAFTA) for Best Original Score in recognition of his compositions for the film Backbeat.
Was, who is a fan of the Rolling Stones and saw them in concert when he was age 12 in 1964, produced their albums Voodoo Lounge, Stripped, Bridges to Babylon, Forty Licks, Live Licks, A Bigger Bang and Blue & Lonesome. He also worked on the Rolling Stones's reissues Exile on Main Street, released in May 2010 and Some Girls released in October 2011. Was scoured old master recordings of the albums for lost gems, remastering some songs while producing entirely new vocals and tracks on others.
Since 2008, Was has hosted the proceedings (and led the house band) at the Detroit All-Star Revue, an annual showcase of local acts from the Detroit music scene.
From 2009 to 2012, Don hosted a weekly radio show on Sirius XM satellite radio's Outlaw Country channel called The Motor City Hayride. During the 2011 season of American Idol, Was appeared in several episodes producing contestants Haley Reinhart, Scotty McCreery, Paul McDonald, Lauren Alaina and Casey Abrams.
In January 2012, he was appointed president of the jazz record label, Blue Note Records in succession to Bruce Lundvall.
He won the 2014 Emmy Award for Outstanding Music Direction for his work on the CBS TV special "The Beatles: The Night That Changed America."
On November 18, 2015, at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington DC, he led the house band that performed at a concert celebrating Willie Nelson, recipient of the 2015 Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.
Don Was is the father of Eve 6 drummer Tony Fagenson and also Henry and Solomon Fagenson. He is married to former Virgin Records A&R executive and video director Gemma Corfield. He is the brother of public official Dr. Nancy Fagenson Potok, former Principal Associate Director and chief financial officer of the US Census Bureau and currently Deputy Undersecretary for Economic Affairs at the US Department of Commerce.
- 1981: Was (Not Was) – Was (Not Was) (Bass, Synthesizer, Vocals, Producer)
- 1982: The Beat Goes On – Orbit featuring Carol Hall (Co-Producer)
- 1983: Born to Laugh at Tornadoes – Was (Not Was) (Producer, Bass. Keyboards, Engineer)
- 1984: Into the Hot, Floy Joy (producer)
- 1985: Spoiled Girl – Carly Simon (producer)
- 1986 Weak in the Presence of Beauty – Floy Joy (producer)
- 1986 Madness of It All – The Ward Brothers (producer)
- 1986 Cross That Bridge – The Ward Brothers (producer)
- 1988: What Up, Dog? – Was (Not Was) (Producer, engineer, Bass, Guitar, Keyboards)
- 1989: Nick of Time – Bonnie Raitt (keyboards, producer)
- 1989: Cosmic Thing – The B-52s (producer)
- 1990: Take It to Heart – Michael McDonald (programming, producer, synthesizer, sequencing, synthesizer programming)
- 1990: Brick by Brick – Iggy Pop (producer)
- 1990: Under the Red Sky – Bob Dylan (bass, producer)
- 1990: To Be Continued – Elton John (Producer)
- 1991: Khaled – Khaled (Producer, Bass, Keyboards)
- 1991: Are You Okay? – Was (Not Was) (Producer, Bass, engineer, Guitar, Vocals)
- 1991: Luck of the Draw – Bonnie Raitt (producer)
- 1991: The Fire Inside – Bob Seger (bass, producer)
- 1992: Arkansas Traveler – Michelle Shocked (producer)
- 1992: Time Takes Time – Ringo Starr (producer)
- 1992: Good Stuff – The B-52s (producer)
- 1992: Read My Lips – A Thousand Points of Night (one-off side project alias)
- 1992: Strange Weather – Glenn Frey (producer)
- 1992: King of Hearts – Roy Orbison (producer, Hammond organ, background vocals)
- 1992: Never Been Rocked Enough – Delbert McClinton (Producer)
- 1993: Across the Borderline – Willie Nelson (producer)
- 1993: Thousand Roads – David Crosby (producer)
- 1993: I'm Alive – Jackson Browne (producer)
- 1994: Longing in Their Hearts – Bonnie Raitt (bass, producer)
- 1994: Voodoo Lounge – The Rolling Stones (producer)
- 1994: "Waymore's Blues" – Waylon Jennings (Producer and Bass)
- 1995: The Road Goes on Forever – The Highwaymen (producer)
- 1995: MTV Unplugged – Bob Dylan (mixing)
- 1995: I Just Wasn't Made for These Times – Brian Wilson (producer)
- 1995: Road Tested – Bonnie Raitt (producer)
- 1995: Stripped – The Rolling Stones (producer/Hammond B-3 Organ)
- 1996: The Restless Kind – Travis Tritt (producer)
- 1996: Organic – Joe Cocker (Producer)
- 1996: El Equilibrio de los Jaguares – Jaguares (Producer)
- 1997: Bridges to Babylon – The Rolling Stones (bass, keyboards, executive producer, producer, piano)
- 1997: Undiscovered Soul – Richie Sambora (producer)
- 1999: Suicaine Gratifaction – Paul Westerberg (producer)
- 1999: Spirit of Music – Ziggy Marley (producer)
- 1999: Avenue B – Iggy Pop (producer)
- 1999: In the Life of Chris Gaines – Garth Brooks (producer)
- 2000: Maroon – Barenaked Ladies (producer)
- 2001: Lions – The Black Crowes (bass, producer, mixing)
- 2002: The Wide World Over – The Chieftains (Producer, Bass)
- 2003: Hootie & the Blowfish – Hootie & the Blowfish (producer)
- 2004: Live Licks – The Rolling Stones (producer)
- 2005: Countryman – Willie Nelson (producer)
- 2005: Make Do With What You've Got – Solomon Burke (Producer)
- 2005: A Bigger Bang – The Rolling Stones (producer, piano)
- 2006: This Old Road – Kris Kristofferson (producer, piano, acoustic and upright bass)
- 2006: "Out of the Ashes" – Jessi Colter (Producer, Bass)
- 2006: Fly – Zucchero (producer)
- 2008: Last Days at the Lodge – Amos Lee (producer)
- 2008: Tennessee Pusher – Old Crow Medicine Show (producer)
- 2008: Boo! – Was (Not Was) (Producer, engineer, Bass, Keyboards, Drums, Vocals)
- 2009: The Excitement Plan – Todd Snider (producer)
- 2009: Shimmer (EP) – Pieta Brown (Producer, Bass)
- 2009: Acquired Taste – Delbert McClinton (Producer)
- 2009: Closer to the Bone – Kris Kristofferson (producer)
- 2009: "California Years – Jill Sobule (Producer, Bass)
- 2010: Y Not – Ringo Starr (bass)
- 2010: Stone Temple Pilots – Stone Temple Pilots (producer)
- 2010: Welder – Elizabeth Cook (Producer)
- 2010: The Union – Elton John/Leon Russell (bass)
- 2010: Chocabeck – Zucchero (producer)
- 2011: Wild and Free – Ziggy Marley (producer)
- 2011: The Gate – Kurt Elling (producer)
- 2011: Blessed – Lucinda Williams (producer)
- 2012: Born and Raised – John Mayer (producer)
- 2012: Born to Sing: No Plan B – Van Morrison (producer)
- 2013: My True Story – Aaron Neville (co-producer with Keith Richards)
- 2013: Paradise Valley – John Mayer (producer)
- 2014: You Should Be So Lucky – Benmont Tench (bass)
- 2014: Melody Road – Neil Diamond (producer)
- 2014: "All My Friends" concert January 14, 2014 – A tribute to Gregg Allman – Bass
- 2014: Rester Vivant – Johnny Hallyday (producer)
- 2014: Everlasting - Martina McBride (producer)
- 2014: Enjoy The View - Bobby Hutcherson, David Sandborn, Joey DeFrancesco (producer)
- 2014: Heigh Ho - Blake Mills (bass)
- 2014: All Rise - Jason Moran (producer)
- 2015: Yesterday I Had The Blues - Jose James (producer)
- 2015: Duets: Reworking the Catalogue - Van Morrison (producer)
- 2015: No Pier Pressure - Brian Wilson (bass)
- 2015: 1 Hopeful Rd. - Vintage Trouble (producer)
- 2016: Blue & Lonesome – The Rolling Stones (producer)