'I can't imagine a life without music..' -Cosimo Matassa, 1926 - 2014

Irma Thomas and Cosimo Matassa at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Photo Credit: Irma Thomas
Irma Thomas and Cosimo Matassa at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Photo Credit: Irma Thomas

Music fans and legends remember the man who is credited for tuning New Orleans music to fit the world stage. Cosimo Matassa died Thursday at age 88.

"I can't imagine a life without music. It sounds like a desert island somewhere or something," Cosimo Matassa said in a 2005 Mayor's Arts Council video. "But beyond that, this city thrives on music."

New Orleans and the rest of the world thrived on not just any music, but Matassa's music.

"By virtue of the fact of the records that were made at his place, tells you he was getting it right," said NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune music writer Keith Spera.

He worked with some of the most iconic New Orleans musicians.

"Most of Fat's hits were recorded at Cosimo's studio," said Spera.

Matassa worked with musicians such as Fats Domino, Little Richard, Professor Longhair, Ray Charles, Sam Cook, and Irma Thomas.

"Cos' could get stuff out of people that they didn't know they could do themselves, and not in a very brash way," Thomas said on Thursday. "The way he would propose it, you were willing to try it even though in your mind you were like, 'I can't do that.' But then again, you wind up doing it, and you're thankful he made the suggestions."

Those suggestions led to what Spera called the blueprint for how rock and roll records were made.

"I think other engineers in other places probably listened to those records and tried to mimic what Cosimo was doing right there in the back of his family's appliance and records shop right there on North Rampart Street," said Spera.

Thomas said he was known by musicians for his pleasant spirit, and also for his engineering prowess, which would make each aspect of the music shine as much as he thought it should.

Irma described a recording session when she was singing backup vocals.

"With my case he would tell me, 'back up, back up, Irma back up a little bit,'" Thomas said.

Those were the details that would land him in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a pioneer of great New Orleans music.

"If anyone wants to really remember Cos', just remember the early days of rhythm and blues," said Thomas.

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