Producer Don Dixon Remembers Smithereens Frontman Pat DiNizio
Smithereens frontman Pat DiNizio passed away this week unexpectedly at the age of 62. He had been recovering from a recent fall that forced the band to cancel their remaining 2017 tour dates. Fans, friends and associates are mourning the loss of the legendary New Jersey musician, including longtime Smithereens producer Don Dixon, who produced the band’s first two albums, 1986’s Especially For You and 1988’s Green Thoughts. He would later return to produce 1994’s A Date With the Smithereens and their most recent studio effort, Smithereens 2011.
Additionally, he helmed the sessions for DiNizio’s solo debut, Songs and Sounds, which was released in 1997 and marked an intriguing shift in style for the veteran musician, who enlisted jazz saxophonist Sonny Fortune, bassist JJ Burnel (the Stranglers) and drummer Tony “Thunder” Smith (Lou Reed, Jeff Beck) to play on the album.
The experience of working with DiNizio on Songs and Sounds left Dixon and his wife, Marti Jones-Dixon, with one unexpected permanent memento, as he shared in an email with Diffuser.
I think of Pat everyday that I’m in my house in Canton. When we were working on his solo record, he was here for a couple of weeks, singing mostly. One night he proclaimed that he was going to cook us his famous spaghetti. I took him to the store and bought everything he needed to make his special sauce [plus] a big glass jug of Italian wine. We came home, Marti and I sitting in the kitchen listening to the tales he would always spin as he cooked...
We had just bought a new Wolf stove. It was the first major appliance Marti had carefully picked out, so she was a little concerned. During the course of his cooking, Pat had all the burners raging.
The supper was wonderful -- real, classic Italian like you’d get in NYC’s Little Italy back in the ‘60s.
But the next morning Marti and I were up early making coffee and there was a huge scorched area on the brand new stove -- a discoloration of some stainless steel. At first, we aren’t very happy about this but Pat’s zest for life, willingness to cook & share his family recipe with us won the day. He broke in our stove for us and made it a real stove like Pinocchio becoming a real boy. Now we’re happy that we have that discoloration to remind us of our friend, the unique, irreplaceable Pat DiNizio.
As DiNizio remembered in a 1998 interview with The Washington Post, Dixon was an important part of the sessions, a trusted confidant and friend who helped to keep things focused and wasn’t afraid to push back.
"I really enjoy spending time with Don, not just in the collaborative process of making a record," he said. "Don is a very interesting, very wise and very talented person. He's a good influence on me. I trust him completely. Certainly there are moments when we argue in the studio. Don more often than not holds to the opinion that, even though you're the artist, you still have to fight for what you want. Which I think is an interesting stance!”
DiNizio's family announced that per his wishes, there will be no funeral or memorial events, "other than a private burial of his ashes to be determined at a later date."