Ben Sidran pays tribute to colleague in new book

Tommy LiPuma is the subject of Sidran’s first biography and fifth book.
Ben sidran next to cover of latest book
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Ben Sidran has written a biography of legendary music producer Tommy LiPuma, a colleague of Sidran for more than 50 years.

Madison-based author and rock and jazz keyboardist Ben Sidran played with the Steve Miller Band and as a session musician for artists such as Eric Clapton and The Rolling Stones. He also recorded and produced more than 30 albums. Sidran understands the hard work it takes to make it in the music industry. That’s why the story of the late Tommy LiPuma, a close friend and colleague for nearly 50 years, resonated so much with him.

In the 1960s, LiPuma worked at M.S. Distributing in his hometown of Cleveland, while Sidran — when not playing with Miller and Boz Scaggs in The Ardells — worked at Discount Records on State Street during his time at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

“We both started our experience in the recording industry opening boxes of records,” Sidran says.

LiPuma, who died in 2017, is the subject of Sidran’s first biography and fifth book, “The Ballad of Tommy LiPuma,” which comes out May 5. The book draws from hours of interviews between Sidran and LiPuma and chronicles the legendary music producer’s life. LiPuma worked at many of the country’s major record labels and produced records for an eclectic assortment of artists, including Paul McCartney, Willie Nelson and Miles Davis.

“Tommy’s story is not just the story of a really interesting American life, which it is,” Sidran says, “but it’s also a way to tell the greater story of popular music and the business of popular music in the United States.”

Sidran also wanted to pay tribute to his friend’s work ethic and personality. “He made very precise, specific recordings and he was open to everybody’s ideas.”

Joshua M. Miller is a freelance writer in southeastern Wisconsin.