Don Hahn. Pic provided.
Don Hahn. Pic provided.

RIP: Celebrated Canadian-Born Recording Engineer Donald C. Hahn

The Canadian-born recording engineer who worked with just about everyone, including Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Quincy Jones, and The Band, on their genre-breaking debut album, Music from Big Pink, died in Henderson, Nevada, on October 10 at age 81.

Don Hahn's career had its start in Montreal at the dawn of the ‘60s, as a musician, and as a studio engineer for the then powerful Top 40 AM, CKGM.

Born in Toronto, he grew up in Montreal where he studied music and attended The Radio College of Canada. While still in his teens, he designed a soundboard to produce street dances for the neighbourhood kids. The youngest child of Harvey and Mary Hahn, he followed in the footsteps of this very Canadian 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. 

His career path led him to A & R Recording Studios in New York City.  Art Ward and Phil Ramone, the studio’s owners, encouraged him to become one of the best engineers of our time. One of his first recordings was engineering The Band’s debut album, Music from Big Pink.

 In 1981, Hahn left New York 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:  from 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.

Hahn was also involved in recording for film and television, capturing orchestras for shows like Star Trek: The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager.

He 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 the covid pandemic, the memorial service will be scheduled in the near future. Condolences and messages can be posted here.

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