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RIP: Renowned Canadian Recording Engineer Donald C. Hahn

February 22, 1939 to October 10, 2020

One of the most successful recording engineers to ever come out of Canada, Donald C. Hahn, passed away on Oct. 10, 2020. Throughout his remarkable career, Don recorded countless classic songs with acts like The Band, Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Billy Joel, Willie Nelson, Whitney Houston, and so many others.

Anyone who grew up listening to music of the ‘60s and onward will likely have heard Don Hahn’s work on radio, television, commercials, and cinemas. He was the behind-the-scenes genius who made everyone sound as professional as possible.

Born in Toronto, Don grew up in Montreal. He studied music and attended The Radio College of Canada. While still in his teens, Don designed a soundboard to produce street dances for the neighborhood kids. The youngest child of Harvey and Mary Hahn, Don followed in the footsteps of his musical family. His older siblings, Lloyd, Bob, Kay, and Joyce Hahn, achieved star status as The Harmony Kids. The Harmony Kids were one of Canada’s first performing and recording artists at the dawn of radio and live television broadcasts.

Don’s career path led him to A & R Recording Studios in New York City.  Art Ward and Phil Ramone, the owners of A&R Studios, were instrumental in encouraging him to reach his potential in the studio. One of Don’s first recordings was engineering The Band’s classic debut album, Music from Big Pink.  The album, which has stood the test of time, is a testament to what can be done live, in-studio.

In 1981, Don left New York City for Los Angeles to work with Herb Alpert at A&M Studios. He became vice president of the studio and continued to develop a track record for excellence, recording, and producing. The list of artists he worked with is extensive:  with top producers, Phil Ramone and Quincy Jones, to artists such as Frank Sinatra, Count Basie, Peggy Lee, Harry Belafonte, Peter Paul & Mary, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Barbra Streisand, Ray Charles, Paul Simon, Judy Collins, Billy Joel, Paul Anka, Chick Corea, Stephane Grappelli, Al Jarreau, Loretta Lynn, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Whitney Houston and Cissy Houston, Larry Coryell, Liza Minnelli, Dionne Warwick, Donovan, Judy Collins, B.B. King, Chuck Mangione, and Dave Grusin – to name a few.

Don is survived by his wife and childhood sweetheart, TV host and published author of children’s books, Dianne Sebis Hahn; their three children: Dina (Joshua Fenton), Darryl (Amy Embry), and Derek Hahn (Ryan Calahan), grandchildren Dagny and Jack Fenton, Sebastian, Sawyer, and Blake Hahn, and sister Joyce Hahn, sister-in-law Neva Hahn, nieces Lliane Price, Kathy Hahn, Donna, Eileen & Helen Hahn; nephew Graham Okos Hahn, David and  Michael Hahn, grandnephew Christopher Hahn and grandnieces Jenny and Rebecca Hahn.

Due to COVID-19 the memorial service will be scheduled in the near future. Condolences and messages can be posted here: https://www.legacy.com/funeral-homes/obituaries/name/donald-hahn-obituary?pid=196952009&v=batesville

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Michael Raine is the Senior Editor at Canadian Musician, Canadian Music Trade, Professional Sound, and Professional Lighting & Production magazines. He also co-hosts the Canadian Musician Podcast.
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