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Roger Nichols, music engineer, dies

Grammy winner worked with Steely Dan

Grammy-winning engineer and producer Roger Nichols died April 9 after a yearlong battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 66.

Nichols was best known for his work with Steely Dan, whose albums were noted for their pristine sonic clarity. He collected three Grammy Awards (including one for album of the year) for his work on the duo’s 2000 album “Two Against Nature.”

He also received the best engineered recording Grammy for Steely Dan’s albums “Aja” (1977) and “Gaucho” (1981) and their film theme “FM (No Static at All).”

Also associated with his longtime friend John Denver, Nichols collected another Grammy for his board work on the singer-songwriter’s “All Aboard,” named best children’s album of 1997.

Born in Oakland, Nichols grew up in Cucamonga, Calif., where he recorded early projects by his high school chum Frank Zappa. Like another noted engineer, the late Tom Dowd, he studied nuclear physics; after working at the San Onofre nuclear plant, he branched into professional recording in the late ’60s. Kenny Rogers & the First Edition was an early client at his Torrance facility Quantum Studios.

He began his long association with Steely Dan in 1971, when he cut Donald Fagen and Walter Becker’s first writing demos. His work with the group spanned engineering their first album “Can’t Buy a Thrill” (1972) to their most recent “Everything Must Go” (2003). He also engineered most of Fagen’s and Becker’s solo projects.

Nichols also worked in the studio with Diana Ross, Rickie Lee Jones, the Beach Boys, Bela Fleck, Rosanne Cash and Rodney Crowell, among many others. In later years he did mastering and remix work.

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