Over the course of his career, Ron Fair has had the pleasure of working with and cultivating the talents of some of the most well-known female voices on the charts. As a producer, A&R guy, and record executive at some of the biggest record labels around, the There Goes the Motherhood husband has always been drawn to working with divas, from Christina Aguilera to Mary J. Blige. But he's quick to point out that divas don't necessarily deserve their hard-to-handle reputations.
"I think at this point in the story, people kind of know who I am and have seen my work one way or another. There’s a lot of mutual respect and some people confuse perfectionism and desire to make something have extraordinary impact [with] being a diva. None of that stuff scares me," he told The Daily Dish of working alongside some of the biggest females in the music industry. "I’m probably the biggest diva of all of them."
Below, Ron offers up an oral history of his work with some of the biggest divas in the game.
1. Christina Aguilera
"I signed her when she was a kid. She framed my whole career because I finally had a voice and an artist that was so magnificent so people could say, 'Oh, that’s what he does.' And we made five albums together, over 50 songs... on Saturday Night Live, when she did her first performance, I played the piano for her. She will always be my personal Elvis. She is the biggest star in the world to me, always will be. She also happens to be a musical genius of extraordinary proportion. She was always a kindred spirit and a giant. You know what? She’s the greatest of all time in my book and always will be. She’s really the one who defines who I am."
"Fergie is like my daughter, my sister. I met Fergie when she was 16. I signed her twice. I signed her in Wild Orchid. She’s another extraordinary vocalist. We tried it with Wild Orchid, we beat our brains out, it didn’t win. Christina did. But then we came back together with the Black Eyed Peas and I put her in the Black Eyed Peas, and co-produced and executive-produced and was the A&R guy of three of her big albums, Monkey Business, Elephunk, and [The] Dutchess, and we had a great run of success together. And if not for Fergie, I probably would not have the beautiful family and marriage I have with Stefanie because Fergie was the one who said, 'Hey I heard Stefanie was getting a divorce' and I said, 'Give me her number.'"
3. Lady Gaga
"Gaga is a totally disciplined, bad-ass piano player. She came in, she read the rhythm chart. She had me produce the song 'Speechless,' she worked her ass off, sang like 100 back-up parts. Really, another very serious, fire-breathing dragon of a talent. Just a great talent and beautiful person."
4. Pussycat Dolls
"Robin Antin created the whole thing. She had this vision and my boss at the time, Jimmy Iovine, said we could turn it into a pop group. We did. Along the way we all got to work with Nicole Scherzinger. I mean Nicole’s probably the hardest working one out of them all. She’s very underrated as a singer and as a dancer, very underrated. Nicole and I are really good friends and, unfortunately, she was very close to Prince. They were friends for years; he used to advise her all of the time. But Nicole, again, a really hard worker, a really great singer, and really underrated. If you go back and listen to her singing 'Feeling Good' or 'I am Done,' there are deep album cuts on the Pussycat Dolls that Nicole is just absolute genius on."
5. Mary J. Blige
"It was a shotgun wedding. Jimmy Iovine asked me to get involved. And she had two songs that she needed because her greatest hits record had been scheduled and he needed two drivers. So one of them was a duet with Bono and U2, a song called 'One,' and the other one was 'Be Without You.' 'Be Without You' was a great song and record that was kind of never finished, so we finished it. We redid the vocals; we added strings. We powered through and it came out so good that then Jimmy asked me, 'Can you just do a whole album in 30 days?' and I said 'No, but okay.' And that was The Breakthrough that went on to sell 9 million copies, it won 3 Grammys, it was the high point of everything. Mary is the absolute last word of soul singing. She is our generation’s Aretha [Franklin]. She is a magnificent spirit and there’s nobody that can take the roof off of a building like Mary."
Speaking of Gaga, check out some throwback photos of the Mother Monster, below.