T Bone Burnett

T Bone Burnett Biography

Singer, Music Producer, Songwriter, Musician, Composer (1948–)
T Bone Burnett is a Grammy Award-winning musician and producer who has worked on several popular films, including 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' and 'The Hunger Games.'


Singer/songwriter and producer T Bone Burnett was born on January 14, 1948, in St. Louis, Missouri. He began making records in 1965 and later joined Bob Dylan to play guitar in his Rolling Thunder Revue tour. Burnett has won multiple Grammy Awards and worked as a musical producer on an array of films, including The Big Lebowski, O Brother, Where Art Thou?Crazy Heart and The Hunger Games.

Background and Early Career

Singer/songwriter and producer T Bone Burnett was born Joseph Henry Burnett III on January 14, 1948, in St. Louis, Missouri. At a young age, Burnett moved with his family to Fort Worth, Texas, where he would spend the rest of his childhood.

Surrounded by a confluence of music in his hometown, including the blues and Tex-Mex, Burnett adopted an early love for all kinds of music. By the age of 14, he was making a second home for himself at a juke joint in Fort Worth, which hosted blues icons like B.B. King and Junior Parker.

Ever ambitious, Burnett was only 17 when he bought his own recording studio, which catered to both Forth Worth bands and visiting musicians. "These country musicians would drink a lot of whiskey, take a lot of speed, and want to stay up all night," he later recalled. "They'd need a place to do it, so they'd end up at my studio."

Working With Dylan...

By the early 1970s, though, Burnett, intent on making it as a musician himself, had ditched Texas for a new life in Los Angeles. Through a friend, he met folk music legend Bob Dylan, and was invited to play guitar on Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue tour. The concerts helped to launch Burnett's career, and he soon formed his own group, the Alpha Band, with a few musicians he'd met on the tour. The group landed some early praise, but Burnett and his mates called it quits after three albums.

The 1980s proved to be a rocky era for Burnett's career as a musician. As a producer, though, there was demand for his work. He manned the helm for the production of popular records such as Los Lobos's How Will the Wolf Survive? and Elvis Costello's King of America (1986), among others.

...and the Coen Brothers

Burnett collaborated with Ethan and Joel Coen on their 1998 film The Big Lebowski. (He had contacted the brothers in the previous decade just to connect after being impressed by their 1987 work Raising Arizona.) From there, Burnett oversaw the production of a number of successful soundtracks, including another Coen Brothers hit, O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2001). The album became a musical milestone of sorts, reintroducing bluegrass music to the masses and going multi-platinum. Additionally, Burnett produced soundtracks to several other films, including the Johnny Cash bio-epic Walk The Line (2005) and Julie Taymor's Across the Universe (2007).

As a musician, Burnett has continued to stay active. In 2006, he released two albums: The True False Identity and Twenty Twenty—The Essential T Bone Burnett.  Another solo album came forth in 2008, Tooth of Crime, which had been preceded by production duties for the lauded Alison Krauss and Robert Plant collaboration Raising Sands (2007).

'Hunger Games,' Elton John and Grammys

Burnett has continued his musical production work for screen projects. He helmed the 2012 soundtrack The Hunger Games: Songs From District 12 and Beyond for the blockbuster film adaptation of the Suzanne Collins novel. Burnett worked with horror novelist Stephen King and fellow rocker John Mellencamp to create the 2013 album Ghost Brothers of Darkland County, which featured a roster of accomplished singers, musicians and actors. 

Burnett also returned to working with the Coen Brothers for the Inside Llewyn Davis soundtrack, which payed homage to the New York folk music scene of the 1960s and featured Oscar Isaac and Justin Timberlake. Having also worked with Elton John on the album Diving Board, Burnett departed from acoustic sounds for a more moody, electronic palette with his score for the first season of HBO's True Detective, debuting in 2014.

Burnett has started his own music label, Electromagnetic Recordings, and is slated to work on a Dylan Basement Tapes project and provide music for an upcoming Elvis Presley biopic. (The sonic statesman had also produced Lisa Marie Presley's 2012 album Storm & Grace.) As of 2015, Burnett has garnered 13 Grammy Awards and been nominated for two Oscars, winning an Academy Award for co-writing "The Weary Kind" from the 2009 Jeff Bridges film Crazy Heart.

Personal Life

Having been married previously, Burnett wed Christian pop singer Leslie "Sam" Phillips in 1989, after helping her produce her critically acclaimed album The Turning. The two, divorced in 2004, had a child, Simone, the second of Burnett's two daughters. Burnett now lives in Los Angeles with his third wife, screenwriter and director Callie Khouri, the creator of ABC's Nashville. Burnett had worked on the show's first season and said he enjoyed working with his wife, but nonetheless decided to leave the series, citing creative differences with executives. 

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