Jimmy Iovine Biography and Profile

Jimmy Iovine
Jimmy Iovine. Photo by Michael Kovac / Getty Images

Jimmy Iovine is best known in the music industry as a co-founder of Interscope Records. He also has a legacy as one of the most successful producers helping define the pop music of the early 1980s. Rolling Stone magazine referred to him as "The Man With the Magic Ears."

Birth and Early Career as an Engineer

Jimmy Iovine was born March 11, 1953 in Brooklyn, New York. In an interview, he said the Beatles' hit single "She Loves you" was the song that hooked him into music.

He began his career in the music industry as a recording engineer and was hired on at the famed Record Plant recording studio in New York City in 1973. He worked with a range of major artists including John Lennon. In 1975 Jimmy Iovine served as engineer for Bruce Springsteen's Born To Run album at age 21 and then worked on Meat Loaf's breakthrough 1977 album Bat Out of Hell.

Jimmy Iovine's Production Breakthrough

By the late 1970s Jimmy Iovine began to pursue an interest in production. His major breakthrough came as producer of Patti Smith's Easter album in 1978. He helped convince Bruce Springsteen to give her his song "Because the Night" to record. It became Patti Smith's first pop hit single.

In 1979 Jimmy Iovine produced Damn the Torpedoes, the first of three successful albums with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. In 1981 Jimmy Iovine produced Stevie Nicks' solo debut album Bella Donna which went to #1.

Their relationship was both personal and professional continuing through Stevie Nicks' next album The Wild Heart. Reportedly, her song "Straight Back" on the Fleetwood Mac album Mirage was written about their relationship. By the mid 1980s, Jimmy Iovine was one of the most respected pop producers in the music business.

He also worked with U2 on their breakthrough EP Under a Blood Red SkyDire Straits on their landmark album Making Movies, and The Pretenders' Get Close which included their top 10 pop hit single "Don't Get Me Wrong."

Top Production Credits

  • Patti Smith - Easter - 1978
  • Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - Damn the Torpedoes - 1979
  • Dire Straits - Making Movies - 1980
  • Stevie Nicks - Bella Donna - 1981
  • Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - Hard Promises - 1981
  • Bob Seger - The Distance - 1982
  • Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - Long After Dark - 1982
  • Stevie Nicks - The Wild Heart - 1983
  • U2 - Under a Blood Red Sky - 1983
  • The Pretenders - Get Close - 1986

Interscope Records

In 1990 Jimmy Iovine climbed another rung in the music business to executive when he began Interscope Records with Ted Field, heir to the Marshall Field department store fortune. They contracted with Atlantic Records for distribution and the label was almost instantly successful. Hits with new artists such as Gerardo and Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch marked Interscope's first year in business. Jimmy Iovine also moved into the world of hip hop by investing money to distribute Death Row Records releases. That helped launch the careers of Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and Tupac Shakur.

Jimmy Iovine is given credit for being the person that passed Eminem's demo tape to Dr. Dre who then signed the young rapper to a contract. Jimmy Iovine co-produced Eminem's acclaimed movie 8 Mile that included the Academy Award winning #1 smash hit song "Lose Yourself." As Interscope gained success, Jimmy Iovine reduced his production work to focus on being a music industry executive. He said in interviews that he didn't miss the production work. He saw the executive, business, and TV worlds as bigger opportunities.

Despite criticism for their involvement with gangsta rap, Interscope continued to prosper and today is one of the most successful labels in the pop music industry. It is the flagship record label of Universal's Interscope group that consists of Interscope, A&M, and Geffen among many smaller units.

Artists recording under the group include the Black Eyed Peas, Eminem, and Lady Gaga.

Business Tangential To Music

In 2008, Jimmy Iovine teamed up with Dr. Dre on a headphones brand called Beats By Dr. Dre. Soon the company captured forty percent of the headphones market with their distinctive design. The company evolved into Beats Electronics and in 2014 Apple, Inc. purchased the company. Jimmy Iovine was hired to help design the new Apple Music online streaming service which launched in June 2015.

American Idol

From 2011 through 2013, Jimmy Iovine served as a mentor for the hit TV competition show American Idol. As part of the deal, winners released their initial records through the Interscope family of labels. Country singer Scotty McCreery and pop artist Phillip Phillips became successful artists recording for Interscope.